Pharma Abuse, Reckless Drug Policy and Foreign Policy, Mass Incarceration, Lobbying, Mental Illness, Addiction
Now is a important time for social policy change, mental health and drug policy reform, issues that are unfortunately 100% political rather than public health driven in the United States.
The images and video clips below show how public health, drug policy, criminal justice, pharmaceutical, and healthcare policies of the United States have put Americans on a different health trajectory than citizens of other countries.
Human beings have sought to alter their consciousness for millenia. The safest and most non-addictive means of achieving chemically altered states of mind are arguably cannabis and serotonergic hallucinogens, substances that have been legally prohibited in the United States of America since 1970. As a result, Americans now resort to some of the most addictive substances known to man, such as nicotine, alcohol, opioids, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines.
The latter three are marketed to physicians and patients by the pharmaceutical industry in the United States.
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America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic 1929–1971
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Women and Addiction in America 1850-1920
- National Cancer Institute, Opioid Overdose Hasten Prohibition's Last Dance w MJ
- Nothing Sacred in America: Unholy Mental Health, Unholy Pharma
"Culture is not your friend. Culture is for other people's convenience and the convenience of various institutions, churches, companies, tax collection schemes, what have you. It is not your friend. It insults you. It disempowers you. It uses and abuses you. None of us are well treated by culture." –Terence McKenna
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Vice President Joe Biden slammed culture: "LGBT people face violence, harassment, unequal treatment, mistreatment by cops, denial of health care, isolation -- always in the name of culture."
"I've had it up to here with culture."
"I really mean it. Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification. None. None. None. When you speak up, you change the terms of the debate."
Bernie Sanders stated at the Jan 17 Dem debate: Let me respond to what the secretary said. We have a criminal justice system which is broken.
Who in America is satisfied that we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China?
Disproportionately African American, and Latino. Who is satisfied that 51% of African American young people are either unemployed, or underemployed?
Who is satisfied that millions of people have police records for possessing marijuana when the CEO's of Wall Street companies who destroyed our economy have no police records.
We need to take a very hard look at our criminal justice system, investing in jobs, and education not in jails and incarceration.
And second of all, when we talk about addiction being a disease, the Secretary is right, what that means is we need a revolution in this country in terms of mental health treatment. People should be able to get the treatment that they need when they need it, not two months from now, which is why I believe in universal healthcare with mental health a part of that.
America's Drug War and Psychoactive #RxProblem
Source of America's Recurring Prescription Drug Problem Finally Stated by a Presidential Candidate: Nobody dares to hold the AMA, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurers, and their government pawns–politicians and the FDA–accountable for America's #RxProblem until now. This cycle of prescription drug abuse happens every decade. We've learned the hard way that overprescribing is not the answer for mental health, where pushing through expensive "me too" drugs is the name of the game. Despite no significant progress in the prevention and treatment of mental illness and addiction in four decades, non-addictive Schedule I drugs cannot be extensively researched because of their legal status. Something must change.
Mental Health, Addiction, and Drug Policy: Politics and Faux Morals Trump American Health
Various societies wear drugs like clothing with no awareness of their existence at all. What is meat, sugar, and alcohol's influence on contemporary culture?
McKenna: Drugs is a word that has polluted the well of language. Part of the reason we have a drug problem is because we don't have an intelligent language to talk about substances, hallucinogenic plants, sedative states of mind, states of amphetamine excitation. We can't make sense of the problem and the opportunities offered by substances unless we clean up our language.
Drugs is a word that's been used by governments to make it impossible to think creatively about the problem of substances and abuse and availability and so forth and so on.
Luc Sala: So it's a kind of a paradox isn't it?
McKenna: 'Drugs' mean that which cures us and the greatest social problem of the generation. To my mind, human history is the story of one substance after another distorting or transforming human values and society. A perfect example would be sugar.
Most people don’t even think of sugar as a drug and yet, we may think that cocaine distorted moral and political values in Latin America, but sugar brought back slavery.
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Luc Sala: But, that has gone on ‘til our days. We have alcohol, we have tobacco.
McKenna: Well, this is my very point, that every society chooses a small number of substances – no matter how toxic – and enshrines them in its cultural values then demonizes all other substances and uses -- and then persecutes and launches witch hunts against those users whenever some political pretext requires witch hunts and persecutions. So, it’s an old game and it’s been played in many places.
Hopefully part of the advancement of society toward ideas of universal human rights and that sort of thing it certainly must include the idea of the universal human right to take responsibility for and to alter your own state of consciousness as you see fit.
We need endless amounts of research. The fact that these things have been illegal in most countries for 50 years means there is a huge lag in understanding of the impact of these things on human beings.
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Nothing Sacred in America? Unholy Mental Health, Unholy Pharma, Sacred Plants
DNC Chair: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a Rare Mass Incarceration and Drug Warrior.... Democratic Party Leader?
Bunking Culture: Bernie Sanders files bill to legalize marijuana
Existing therapies and medications will not fix mental illness and addiction; neither will cultural institutions like Big Pharma, the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and the overwhelmed healthcare system. It's going to take a culture shift, new ideas, and avoiding past mistakes.
Psychiatry and psychology are so entrenched in the sick system, so that mental health care will likely never be affordable for individuals or American taxpayers unless major changes are made.
To Patrick J. Kennedy and everyone else who has fought courageously for parity: Think of ways to make mild to moderate anxiety and depression treatments more efficient and affordable. A psilocybin model would not involve expensive clinical practitioners and would free up care for those with more severe and complex forms of mental illness.
Look at neuroscientist Oliver Sacks' view in the photo to the right. That is awe. Traveling to new places as well as experiencing what is possible within our own minds can produce feelings of awe. This emotion needs to be available for everyone, as it can be therapeutic.
What we don't know yet–because research with psilocybin is legally restricted–is if resting state connectivity, gray matter, or other markers would change over time in patients with anxiety/depression or other disorders who receive psilocybin psychotherapy.
It's the prospective studies that need to happen... See what one or two sessions can do for patients. Like expert pharmacologist David Nichols says in the video to the right, one or two sessions would with psilocybin would be a better alternative to long-term antidepressant use. Some antidepressants (such as Effexor) have pronounced withdrawal effects.
People with mild to moderate depression or anxiety need a better means of treatment so resources are not taken away from those who experience more serious or advanced mental illness. Overprescribing and using too many resources on the "worried well" is something that former DSM Task Force Chair Allen Frances has harped on repeatedly. Psilocybin is a potential tool to treat this "worried well" population more efficiently and cost-effectively, therefore allowing more care to be available to patients with more difficult-to-treat forms of mental illness like schizophrenia.
Stanford: Researchers find mental health prescription in Nature
Psychology Study Explains Entheogen Ethics: Awe inspired by nature dissolved the ego and increased ethical decision-making, altruism, and prosocial values in a similar manner to the mystical experience occasioned by classic hallucinogens
Oliver Sacks Foundation: “My father, who lived to ninety-four, often said that the eighties had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective.One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’ too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, beauty.”
The New Yorker: Trip Treatment
Oliver Sacks: Altered States, Self Experimentations in Chemistry
NPR: Oliver Sacks, Exploring How Hallucinations Happen
How Oliver Sacks put a human face on the science of the mind: The legacy of Oliver Sacks, whose work and life remind us that humanity belongs at the heart of medicine
Oliver Sacks Used LSD Legally: Is the Drug War Preventing Great Discoveries?
Mental Health Abuse:
It's a Matter of Conscience: Tackling Greed, Holding Healthcare to a Higher Standard to Protect America's Future
First, a base of mastery. You can't escape the need to know things. Abstract genius is a fairy tale. Without a foundation of knowledge and skill, we will live permanently in a state of societal ill health. Any nation aspiring to be a healthy society needs solid sources of fact (eg, a world-class university or two).
Second, breadth. Original thinkers who can foster healthy societies will not worship geekery. To solve global problems, people will need to look beyond the knowledge they have mastered. They will have to seek insights between disparate disciplines in ways that our current educational apparatus disincentivises.
Third, the ability to frame new questions. What matters is not problem solving. It is problem finding.
Fourth, courage. Are you brave enough to explore avenues others think are hopeless cul-de-sacs? Are you confident enough to survive failure? If yes, you might have a big contribution to make to the health of your society.
Finally, openness. Never close your mind. Enjoy the idea of ideas. Bask in a sea of hypotheses."
BERNIE SANDERS: ...here is what the real point is, in terms of all of the issues you've raised -- the good questions you've raised. You know what it all comes down to?
Do you know why we can't do what every other country -- major country on Earth is doing? It's because we have a campaign finance system that is corrupt, we have super PACs, we have the pharmaceutical industry pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign contributions and lobbying, and the private insurance companies as well.
What this is really about is not the rational way to go forward -- it's Medicare for all -- it is whether we have the guts to stand up to the private insurance companies and all of their money, and the pharmaceutical industry. That's what this debate should be about.
Clinton admirably remembered to mention naloxone (brand name Narcan) to rescue victims of opioid overdose. Harm reduction measures like making naloxone and syringe exchanges accessible are important and necessary issues.
Hillary Clinton has the harm reduction talking points down, but she misses the big picture and appropriate solution to America's culture of prescription drug abuse:
CLINTON: "Well, Lester, you're right. Everywhere I go to campaign, I'm meeting families who are affected by the drug problem that mostly is opioids and heroin now, and lives are being lost and children are being orphaned. And I've met a lot of grandparents who are now taking care of grandchildren.
So I have tried to come out with a comprehensive approach that, number one, does tell the states that we will work with you from the federal government putting more money, about a billion dollars a year, to help states have a different approach to dealing with this epidemic.
The policing needs to change. Police officers must be equipped with the antidote to a heroin overdose or an opioid overdose, known as Narcan. They should be able to administer it. So should firefighters and others.
We have to move away from treating the use of drugs as a crime and instead, move it to where it belongs, as a health issue. And we need to divert more people from the criminal justice system into drug courts, into treatment, and recovery."
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However, It took an Indiana HIV outbreak to finally convince culturally-opposed House Republicans to do something as simple as lift a ban on Federal funding for syringe exchanges.
Battling America's opioid epidemic is important, but politicians must look at the source of America's prescription drug abuse problem in order to prevent another one. At the last Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders was the first presidential candidate to do so by putting some responsibility on the financial and political influence of pharmaceutical companies.
Vox: "The opioid epidemic began when doctors prescribed a tremendous amount of opioid painkillers to help treat pain–albeit inappropriately–a serious problem, given that chronic pain alone afflicts about 100 million Americans. One reason doctors were so willing to prescribe these painkillers, despite the clear risks of addiction and overdose, is heavy campaigning from the pharmaceutical industry." Learn more about America's mistreatment of chronic pain here.
NIDA Director Nora Volkow identifies the source of America's #RxProblem (video below): "There is very little education, formal education, in medical schools, in nursing schools, in pharmacy schools as it relates to the screening, evaluation, and proper treatment of patients with chronic pain... well, that's the other thing, well, you say, 'Are there not already many educational material out there?' Yes, there is significant educational material out there but many of them have been funded by subsidies of pharmaceutical companies. And I think that one of the concerns has been to what extent there may be some conflict, even if it's not intended to be conflictual, whether that, in turn, affects the quality of the material."
Pushing for high-priced pharmaceuticals in America is not the worst deed of drug lobbyists. The most unethical pharmaceutical lobbyist drug pushing is that of psychoactive and mental health medications that have lead to overprescribing and insurance companies refusing to pay for non-drug therapies.
The FDA's job is to protect Americans from this type of abuse. Instead, it protects interests of pharmaceutical companies that have not only failed at preventing and treating mental illness and addiction, but have made these problems worse.
Most antidepressants the past 15-20 years have primarily been "me too" drugs that bear little difference from the ones before them. About 10 years ago, 2nd generation antipsychotics were created and subsequently overprescribed for treating various psychiatrist-created mental illnesses, then inappropriately given to vulnerable populations like foster kids, children on Medicaid, and seniors. The reckless use of mental health meds have resulted in billions of dollars in lawsuits and fraud settlements. In addition, we are currently dealing with a major opioid and heroin overdose epidemic caused by addictive psychoactive painkillers.
Cannabis: Also treats chronic pain
JAMA: In states with medical marijuana, painkiller deaths drop by 25%
Meditation: Mindfulness-based pain relief (More here)
Purdue Pharma (Maker of Oxycontin), Xenophobia, $$$: The Real Reason Cannabis is Still Illegal in the United States
The Oxycontin Clan: $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families (Slap on the wrist here)
Drug Policy Reform: The New Human Rights Movement on the Block
The First Step of Ending the Drug War is Ending Drug War Rhetoric
40 Years of Psychoactive Prescription Drug Research, In a Nutshell: "It will put people to sleep, and will relieve anxiety. As soon as we start to, uh, ask the question, over 2, 3, 4 months or 2, 3, 4 years, what the effect... I don't think we know the answer to this. And that's largely because it hasn't been looked for very carefully."
The result of loose regulation of psychoactive drug production by Big Pharma? A raging opioid overdose and hepatitis C epidemic.
Vox: Bernie Sanders is right, drug companies did help cause the opioid epidemic
Terence McKenna: No Friend to Culture
Like Biden, author and ethnobotanist Terence McKenna also took issue with culture. A fair assessment of McKenna's thoughts on culture can be found here. The following quotes are from McKenna:
"I think that we are caged by our cultural programming. Culture is a mass hallucination, and when you step outside the mass hallucination, you see it for what it is worth.
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And I realize that here I skirt the bounds of political correctness, because everyone is running around saying 'Recapture your roots, get in touch with your Swedishness, your Irishness, your whateverishness'…and that’s all very fine, but I think it’s your humanness that may have eluded you in all this ethnocentric breastfeeding.
Why should culture imprison us and somehow place a barrier between ourselves and our true humanness?
Well, I think I said at the beginning of this thing. Culture and ideology are not your friend, they are not your friend. This is a hard thing to come to terms with because a certain kind of alienation comes with this type of thought process.
On the other hand, you can't live in the cradle forever. You can't be clueless forever.
So somebody might as well just lay it out for you, and say, 'Culture is for the convenience of culture, not you.'
How many times have your career aspirations, financial dealings and aesthetic inclinations been squashed, twisted, rejected and minimized by cultural values?"
"Culture is Not
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So, the way I think of these sacred medicines are a different way. Is that they're catalysts for the imagination. Catalysts to say what has never been said. To see what has never been seen. To draw, paint, sing, sculpt, dance, and act what has never before been done. To push the envelope of creativity and language. And, what's really important is, I call it, the felt presence of direct experience, which is a fancy term which just simply means, we have to stop consuming our culture.
We have to create culture. Don't watch TV. Don't read magazines. Don't even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe.
Icons that are maintained by an electronic media, so that, you know, you wanna dress like X, or have lips like Y, or some, this is shit brained, this kind of thinking.
That is all cultural diversion.
And what is real is you, and your friends, and your associations. Your highs. Your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And...we are told, 'No. We're unimportant, we're peripheral. Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.' Then you're a player. You don't even want to play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world. Where's that at?
What civilization is is 6 billion people trying to make themselves happy by standing on each other's shoulders and kicking each other's teeth in. It's not a pleasant situation. And yet, you can stand back and look at this planet and see that we have the money, the power, the medical understanding, the scientific know-how, the love and the community, to produce a kind of human paradise. But we are led by the least among us, the least intelligent, the least noble, the least visionary; we are lead by the least among us, and we do not fight back against the dehumanizing values that are handed down as control icons."
"Culture is a perversion. It fetishizes objects, creates consumer mania, it preaches endless forms of false happiness, endless forms of false understanding in the form of squirrelly religions and silly cults. It invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanize themselves by behaving like machines."
"If you keep yourself as the final arbiter you will be less susceptible to infection by cultural illusion."
Terence McKenna states in A Species Addicted (video): "Our unhappy addicted ego driven condition has become not simply the source of our own unhappiness that was bad enough but now its the source of great discomfort and dislocation for all life and human society on the planet.
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New York University Psilocybin Music Sampler: Helping Patients with Psychological Distress
The Power of Positive Emotion: Many issues are nowadays dismissed as mere 'first world problems'. But the problems of the first world are deeply important and need to get addressed - as the whole planet will eventually have them.
Is Your Life in America Like Pushing a Boulder Through Eternity? 5 Issues We Can Change
Psychology Study Explains Ethics: Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior
Mental State of the Union: Defense Department Waste, Unintelligent Drug Policy, No Mental Health
Mental Health: America, Don't Fight Mental Illness and Addiction with One Arm Behind Your Back
Video: Modern Society
We have spread this intellectual virus from pole to pole, from Turkmenistan to Borneo, to the upper Amazon to the Himalayas, what are we going to do about this? Well so far we've been treating this like an endless garden party, there's no serious plan on the table to deal with this at all.
Culture is a shabby lie. Well at least this culture is a shabby lie. If you work like a dog you get 260 channels of bad television and a German automobile, what sort of perfection is that? Religion is completely devalued, and consumer object fetishism is the only value that we collectively recognize. I'm sure you've seen the T-shirt that says 'he who dies with the most toys wins' That is in fact the banner under which we are all flying here. And the level of unhappiness is immense, I mean the level of unhappiness between the poor they've always been miserable, but we've created something entirely new in the human history, and utterly miserable ruling class!
Where is life carrying us? What is this all about? its is carrying us towards extinction so the rest of nature can heave an enormous sign of relief and get back to the business of whatever they are doing out there, or is it in fact carrying us towards some kind of transition?
...I mean, the level of unhappiness among the poor, they've always been miserable; but we've managed to create something entirely new in human history... An utterly miserable ruling class! I mean, there seems no excuse for that!" – Terence McKenna, The World and It's Double
"We have gone sick by following a path of untrammeled rationalism, male dominance, attention to the visible surface of things, practicality, bottom-line-ism. We have gone very, very sick. The society is trying to cure itself by an archaic revival, by a reversion to archaic values...The hour is late; the clock is ticking; we will be judged very harshly if we fumble the ball."
"We are the inheritors of millions and millions of years of successfully lived lives and successful adaptations to changing conditions in the natural world. Now the challenge passes to us, the living, that the yet-to-be-born may have a place to put their feet and a sky to walk under; and that's what the psychedelic experience is about, is caring for, empowering, and building a future that honors the past, honors the planet and honors the power of the human imagination."
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Psilocybin: Combating Depression and Anxiety in Homebound Older Adults and Patients with Chronic and Terminal Illness
Eros and the Eschaton: "In the 19th century, there was a term “melancholia”, which we would now call bipolar depression, so forth and so on. But all forms of sadness, unhappiness, maladaptation, so forth and so on, were poured into this label “melancholia."
"There is a great phobia about the mind: the Western mind is very queasy when first principles are questioned. Rarer than corpses in this society are the untreated mad, because we can’t come to terms with that.
A shaman is someone who swims in the same ocean as the schizophrenic, but the shaman has thousands and thousands of years of sanctioned technique and tradition to draw upon. In a traditional society, if you exhibited “schizophrenic” tendencies, you are immediately drawn out of the pack and put under the care and tutelage of master shamans. You are told: 'You are special. Your abilities are very central to the health of our society. You will cure. You will prophesy. You will guide our society in its most fundamental decisions.'
...And at the centre of that impulse is the shaman: stoned, intoxicated on plants, speaking with the spirit helpers, dancing in the moonlight, and vivifying and invoking a world of conscious, living mystery. That's what the world is. The world is not an unsolved problem for scientists or sociologists.
History of Psychiatric Institutions
Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds Interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes. Nowhere to go: Severe shortcomings in the state of mental health care for young people in the U.S.
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Sad List: Existing Treatments for Addiction
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Address to the Jung Society: Mind-Altering Substances of Our Amazing and Oft-Addicted (Modern) World
Western Mind a House of Cards?
Regarding mystical experiences and moments of positive emotion and awe: They are doorways opening on to unimaginable vistas of self-exploration, empowerment and hope for the human enterprise. And our culture has killed that, taken it away from us, made us consumers of shoddy products and shoddier ideals. We have to get away from that; and the way to get away from it is by a return to the authentic experience of the body: exploring the mind as a tool for personal and social transformation."
We need realistic mental health parity, mental health efficiency, and more targeted research funding of therapies that won't break the bank and have a good track record of safety when used appropriately.
Insurance will always resist paying for dozens of therapy sessions that may or may not work. Pill culture is not the answer, either.
We must think differently and with an open mind to develop realistic ways to improve mental health in the United States.