Why is nonconsensual, compulsory treatment widely accepted in mental healthcare? Why are many in the medical and bioethics community so certain that the “insane” are undoubtedly unfit to choose for themselves? Who is to say? Who is to decide what is the most whole/beautiful/meaningful/ “right” existence of another?
* Thinking specifically about nonconsensual electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in schizophrenic patients, some who deny their diagnosis and treatment. See the case PBU & NJE v Mental Health Tribunal from 2018 in Victoria. Essentially, the patients won and were freed from forced treatment. For those on the side of patient advocacy and autonomy, this was good news. However, this ruling upset some psychiatrists and bioethicists.
Fifteen micrograms of acid, on a sliver of paper, washed down with a glass of water. This is my medicine of choice.
I microdosed 1P-LSD from April to December 2017 following a regimen: one day on, threeish days off. It’s been over a year since I stopped that routine and tapered my dosing to as-needed for mood support.
Eight months is a bit longer than most ~microdosing experts~ recommend. Online sources typically suggest six weeks or three months, but that’s mostly speculative. Any recommendations for continued psychedelic use (and all psychiatric medicine?) are relatively inexpert given our still premature understanding of the brain. When it comes to intimate psychological issues, there is no single cure for what has complex—and largely unknown—causes. No one knows which precise treatment or prescription will work for anyone. Especially in people with discreet or hard-to-diagnose issues, who experience difficulty communicating, or who are especially young or old. It’s all an experiment. That’s what the medical community has been doing, as well as a few rogue individuals.
Psychedelic researchers, advocates, and skeptics alike met on February 13th, 2019 in Melbourne for the Mind Medicine Australia launch. Fresh from San Francisco and eager to meet people in this city also interested in psychedelic medicine, I bought an early-bird ticket.
February 13th, 2019, 5:30 PM. At this point in life getting ready to go out involves more time bopping around with acid under my tongue than looking in the mirror. Microdosing quells my zapping nerves and oftentimes overactive mind, especially before larger gatherings.
So I took a small dose before biking to the University of Melbourne for the Mind Medicine launch. The bats weren’t out yet, but they would be soon, and the air was a perfect 23°C. I locked my bike, tried to tame my helmet hair, and entered the Sidney Myer Asia Centre. Immediately greeted, thick lashes ushered me to the left. More smiling eyes appeared around the corner, showing the way upstairs. I entered the full, bustling theater.
There were only a few seats left. Everyone was finding their space, finding their friends. I sat down in the back and observed the crowd. No matter if it’s in Melbourne, London, Berlin, or San Francisco, the general attitude and sense of psychedelic conferences remains the same: compassionate, curious, positive, and present. There’s this shared understanding, communicated with kind and sometimes cheeky glances that say: “We’ve seen a glimpse of the possible. That’s why we’re all here.” It’s usually a clash of characters, buttoned-up scientists, artists. The kind of people you might bond with at a music festival and never see again are there, anticipating a lineup of lectures.
Sound cultish? It really shouldn’t. People from all edges of the earth have been interested in psychedelic medicine and its potential for millennia. Many aboriginal people wonder what took us so long to make the connection. This goes beyond a Reddit thread.
“Hi neighbor,” the man next to me introduced himself. He was wearing a sheen suit and said he wanted a job.
Migration as a bioethics issue — not allowing people to migrate physically (from asylum seeking to relocation for better opportunity and simply travel) and mentally (with psychoactive substance or mind-altering experiences) is a bioethics issue. Regulations on migration, travel, and drug use serve some and harm many.
The ethics of psychiatric diagnosis/prescription vs. self-medication — the current psychiatric system also serves some, but hurts many, and moving from the doctor-patient power imbalance to patient empowerment could be a solution. This research would seek information about people who do not receive psychiatric treatment (for reasons from ability to financial), who do not benefit from current pharmaceuticals, and who already know which drugs they want to try — whether from their psychiatrist or from the street. Do you know people who go to the doctor knowing what they’ll be asking for? Isn’t this doctor-approved self-medication? Do you know people given drugs by doctors that they wouldn’t take on their own, that might even make them seem worse? (Thinking strictly re: psychiatric medicine, not for example, cancer treatment.) Is self-medication really the problem authorities should fight or should they provide wider education and harm reduction instead? Reference: Portugal. Will the information age cut out doctors as the middle men between patients and their preferred medicine? This would reference Our Right to Drugs by Thomas Szasz, among others.
He cannot budge an inch because the recognition of certain shortcomings would confront him with his conflicts, thus jeopardizing the artificial harmony he has established. We can arrive, therefore, at a positive correlation between the intensity of the conflicts and the rigidity of the idealized image: an especially elaborate and rigid image permits us to infer especially disruptive conflicts.”
-Karen Horney Our Inner Conflicts (Translated from German)
One of the issues surrounding patriarchy is not just control over people’s bodies, people’s minds, how they’re supposed to respond, what’s going to be an acceptable adventure in this arena, but they also control and prioritize what is an acceptable feeling. And especially in the consciousness community, and it’s been in the religious communities as well, as bearers of moral import, love is put at the top. That’s the high vibration. At the bottom, that’s the low vibration. That’s anger or something like that. And then you have variances in between. What they have done is take a whole spectrum of feelings, and they have said that some are good and some are bad. They’ve turned them into moral qualities, and not just feelings. So what happens is that when people who are not acceptable as equal to the patriarchy, and I’m talking about women, when they have feelings, they are put on a lower spectrum as to what is acceptable for a woman to express. It’s the same thing for men, for those who, like myself, have been sexually molested as children, and raped. When we want to say these things, we are told, oh, well that’s in the past. That’s a patriarchal attitude which wants to control how people can relate within the culture. And that is directly a patriarchal attitude… that’s the place where hierarchy is telling you how to be as a human being.”
-A voice from the audience at Psychedelic Patriarchy
February 7, 2018 in NYC
Last night I attended the Women and Psychedelics Forum at CIIS, organized by Bia Liabate of Chacruna, with support from MAPS. Topics of conversation included the ethics of psychedelic therapy, sexual assault in ceremonial settings, the current state of crisis/division, and our history in a dominator system. We talked about psychedelic-assisted pattern-seeking, deconditioning, education, and healing. For individuals and societies. We talked a bit about the War on Drugs and how it has been used against black and brown people to benefit a few white people. This has been and still is our reality.
Speakers addressed the fact that these cultural problems of social inequality, sexual violence, and greed also exist in this psychedelic bubble. Surprise! (Well not really.)
But I left overjoyed that this space even exists, and while I’m still processing everything from the seven hour conversation — the many lines of thought to be continued — I am almost certain that last night’s gathering pushed me and other attendees a little further into our own hope/work. For ourselves and this community.
Compared to other conferences I’ve attended in the last few years… this gathering was different. The psychedelic space can be an inviting bunch, but the female psychedelic space provided a uniquely thoughtful, stimulating, and progressive mixing of minds.
I loved when Kathleen Harrison compared women’s work in this space to mycelium: a growing underground network, working from the bottom up. A web of connections highly aware that our current system is not collectively caring and compassionate (like it could be!). A group of voices that have chosen not to succumb to attempted silencing and “be quiet”s. We met here and chose otherwise, just like people before us did during the abolition of slavery, the suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. Psychedelic medicine can help us carefully gather information, come back, and share.
Our brains are tuned for novelty. And for good reason. It’s adaptive to be responsive to new things in the environment. Changes, threats in the environment. We’re tuned to disregard the familiar or take it for granted, which is indeed what most of us do. One of the things that happens on psychedelics and on cannabis is that the familiar suddenly takes on greater weight. And there’s an appreciation of the familiar. I think a lot of familiar things are profound if looked at in the proper way. The feelings of love I have for people in my family are profound, but I don’t always feel that profundity. Psychedelics change that balance… The line between profundity and banality is a lot finer than we think.”