I was surprised to see this video from the mainstream media. It’s a news report about an important topic and they even discuss actual scientific research. Scientists have been researching the effects, uses and benefits of psychedelics off and on for about a half century now, but it’s nice to see the mainstream media finally catching up.
“Benighted fool!” shouted the man from The Fordian Science Monitor, “why don’t you take soma?”"Get away!” The Savage shook his fist.
The other retreated a few steps then turned round again. “Evil’s an unreality if you take a couple of grammes.”
“Kohakwa iyathtokyai!” The tone was menacingly derisive.
“Pain’s a delusion.”
“Oh, is it?” said the Savage and, picking up a thick hazel switch, strode forward.
The man from The Fordian Science Monitor made a dash for his helicopter.”
Later, Huxley experimented with psychedelics and saw their positive potential. So, he wrote the utopian novel Island. The people of the island use a mushroom called moksha medicine.
“Is there any connection,” Will asked, “between what you’ve been talking about and what I saw up there in the Shiva temple?”
“Of course there is,” she answered. “The moksha-medicine takes you to the same place as you get to in meditation.”
“So why bother to meditate?”
“You might as well ask, Why bother to eat your
“But according to you, the moksha-medicine is dinner.”
“It’s a banquet,” she said emphatically. “And that’s precisely why there has to be meditation. You can’t have banquets everyday. They’re too rich and they last too long. Besides, banquets are provided by a caterer; you don’t have any part in the preparation of them. For your everyday diet you have to do your own cooking. The moksha-medicine comes as an occasional treat.”
Philip K. Dick wrote about the mood organ in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but the mood organ isn’t a physical drug. It uses a Penfield Wave Transmitter and so can instantly alter one’s brainwaves. By dialing different numbers one can create the desired state of mind:
“well-disposed toward the world”
“businesslike, professional attitude”
“awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future”
“The desire to watch TV, no matter what is on it”
“ecstatic sexual bliss”
“pleased acknowledgement of husband’s superior wisdom in all matters”
“creative and fresh attitude toward one’s job”
The puppeteer addressed himself to Speaker-to-Animals.
“You understand that I will use the tasp every time you force me to. I will use it if you attempt to use violence too often, or if you startle me too much; you will soon become dependent upon the tasp; if you kill me, you will still be ignobly bound by the tasp itself.”
“Very astute,” said Speaker. “Brilliantly unorthodox tactics. I will trouble you no more.”
“The puppeteer is right,” said Speaker. “I would not risk the tasp again. Too many jolts of pleasure would leave me his willing slave. I, a kzin, enslaved to a herbivore!”
In George Lucas’ THX 1138, everyone is forced to take drugs that suppress emotions including sexual desire.
“Take four red capsules, In 10 minutes take two more. Help is on the way.”
The Matrix trilogy is a bit different. The Matrix is an illusion, the ultimate dystopia. In this case, the two pills are symbolic of choice, and the red pill is more of an anti-drug as it induces waking to reality.
Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
In case you’re interested, there are many other fictional drugs. I could describe the drugs in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, but that would be a complicated endeavor and it doesn’t quite fit in with these other fictional drug stories.
I was amused by this article. It’s the type of thing that would feed some people’s fears. ”OMG! Pot is destroying our children’s minds! The fear-mongering of the Just Say No ads was right! That really is how your brain looks on drugs!”
Yeah, yeah, yeah… well, everything effects the brain, especially the developing brain. The brain keeps developing even during the decade when most people go to college, start drinking heavily and start experimenting with drugs. Heck, your diet and environment effects your brain. Children who grow up poor (malnourishment and environmental pollution) grow up to have many physical and mental health problems (such as lowered IQ).
And you think illegal drugs are the main problem? Recent research shows that cigarettes and alcohol are more harmful than marijuana. Also, research shows that prescription drugs given to children (such as the popular Ritalin) can permanently alter their brain functioning. The prescribing of drugs to children has increased massively in recent years. There are more kids taking legal drugs than illegal drugs (although they may be taking legal drugs that are prescribed to others which is the biggest drug problem in schools).
I don’t think kids should be smoking pot, but kids shouldn’t be doing many things (whether by their own choice or by the choice of adults). In the big picture, though, I don’t think marijuana comes even close to being one of the bigger issues to worry about.
I’ve been diagnosed with depression close to 15 years. Like anything my mind becomes focused on, I’ve studied to a fair extent the subject of depression and the issues related to it.
Depression is a rather odd phenomena. In some ways, it’s a socially acceptable mental disease. Severely depressed people often look and act completely normal. Unless someone is bi-polar, they won’t have any extremely noticable shifts in mood or behavior. I know that I’m extremely capable of hiding my depression and no one would know if I didn’t tell them. And yet it can be severely debilitating. Because a depressed person may appear completely normal it makes it all the more challenging. The depressed person can hide their illness which will just make them feel more isolated. It’s extremely common for people to kill themselves, and afterwards their friends and family didn’t even know the person was unhappy.
It’s in ways just like life in general except magnified. Depression has become a very popular disease considering how many people are on antidepressants. In the past, people suffered and that was the way it was. But I suppose such things as school shootings have made many people realize that private problems easily turn into public problems. Depression is probably over-diagnosed and it makes sense. Everyone wants to be happy.
Unfortunately, there is no effective happy pill. Here are some links about research, analysis, and commentary on the effectiveness of antidepressants:
Basically, antidepressants are only significantly effective for the severely depressed and even then it’s questionable. They help some people, but not most. Most people taking antidepressants probably might as well be taking sugar pills.
Research, however, is complex. It’s hard for even research scientists to determine effectiveness. Simply being involved in research causes a placebo effect. The doctor is a placebo effect. The hospital is a placebo effect. The drug companies themselves are a placebo effect. Generally speaking, new drugs are the most effective not because of better research but simply because they’re new and their effectiveness lessens the longer they’re on the market. I’m not saying drugs are useless, but all of this is particularly true for antidepressants. The drug companies have had a hard time finding antidepressants that work much better than a placebo. Even considering the best antidepressants, most of the effectiveness comes from the simple placebo effect of being given a pill by a doctor.
This leads to a moral conundrum. A placebo is probably most effective when someone doesn’t know it’s a placebo (although there is research that shows that even when a doctor tells a patient they gave them a placebo they can still sometimes gain benefit from it, but research also shows that the effect of a placebo goes down after the patient is informed).
Anyways, antidepressants are big business. If I remember correctly, they are the most widely prescribed of the mental health drugs. But I doubt doctors tell their patients about the questionable effectiveness of antidepressants before prescribing them. They do work at least as placebos and so what is the harm? It’s a moral question and depends on what are your moral values. Does a doctor have the moral responsibility to always tell the truth? There are plenty of cases, for example, where someone health quickly diminishes after getting a negative prognosis. The relationship between doctor and patient isn’t an objective reality. Most of the help a doctor can offer is simply himself, his presence and authority.
Nonetheless, one of my biggest moral values is truth. To me, this has more to do with authenticity than honesty per se, but it’s hard to be authentic if you’re not telling the truth. Can a doctor be authentic in caring about a patient while lying to them? Is deception appropriate as long as it’s done with paternalistic good intentions? Basically, should a doctor treat a patient like an equal human being or like a child?
Many people would say it doesn’t matter. A doctor should do whatever helps. The problem is that it isn’t always clear. Deception can have negative effects if, for instance, a patient discovers the deception. If the patient loses faith in the doctor or in doctors in general, then the whole placebo effect goes out the window.
Even this post brings up a moral issue. Any person who reads this, will likely have an increase in doubts towards the effectiveness of drugs. Placebos are given to patients all of the time without the patients knowing. How do you actually know anything your doctor prescribes for you is actually an active drug? You don’t. And even if you’re taking a real anti-depressant, it might be no different from a sugar pill. A depressed person who learns of these facts will probably experience less effective treatment by being prescribed antidepressants. This post itself is a nocebo.