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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Brave New World
This article looks at Brave New World in light of America's heavy use of psychotropic drugs. Some thoughts ...

* In case of mental illness with physical roots, pills are often the only thing that can fix that. No amount of talking will fix a bad biochemical imbalance. For some people, it's just a maintenance medication that makes them their normal self, like maintenance meds for asthma allow breathing.

* Another good time for pills is when someone is so miserable they can't think clearly enough to work on the problem. Frex, traumatic grief. In this regard, it can be like taking pain pills for a little while after a serious injury.

* Pills will not fix bad tape from a lousy childhood or unhealthy relationship. To fix that you have to figure out what went wrong and replace the distorted thought patterns with better ones.

* Pills also will not fix mental problems (e.g. anxiety, depression, PTSD) caused by a hazardous environment (workplace bullying, domestic violence, racism, etc.). To fix those, you must first move to a safer environment and then repair the damage.

* However, quite a wide range of pills can make you not care about things. If those are concrete problems, then it's the equivalent of taking painkillers so you can work while injured: highly prone to do more damage while you've shut off the alarm system. It makes no difference whether said pills are legal or illegal, made in a factory or a barn. An addiction to prescription sleeping pills can ruin your health and life just as effectively as heroin. What matters is whether it's the right tool for the job, and used appropriately.

* Using drugs to make someone less of a nuisance to other people (e.g. drugging energetic children, or elders who want to move around) is chemical restraint and technically illegal. But it happens all the time. This is especially a problem with drugging children so they will sit still through educational neglect or abuse, because state-dependent memory means that without the drug, they may not remember much of what they "learned" while on it.

* America has a raging drug problem in large part because some doctors prescribe pills to make people go away. It's faster and easier than actually trying to figure out why they are upset, in pain, or otherwise having problems. Then the supply gets cut off, and the person turns to a street supplier and often a cheaper drug like heroin.

* Conversely, the crackdown on the addiction boom has left many chronic pain patients and some mentally ill people unable to access medication they need. Sometimes they turn to dealers. But other times they just become depressed and suicidal due to untreated problems.

So it's really not about medication or medical issues at all. It's about power. Someone else other than the sick or injured person decides what it is to be done with their body. They may be treated by force if someone else benefits from it, or denied treatment if nobody else cares. They're told it's bad to solve their own problems, if they don't accept neglect and persist in trying to fix issues with whatever materials they can obtain. And then society wonders why it has a massive drug epidemic!

Here's the real parallel with Brave New World: people are more prone to take drugs, and especially become addicted, if their life sucks than if it's in good shape. Check out the Rat Park experiments. Quite a lot of drug prescriptions today aim at making people tolerate an otherwise intolerable environment. That's bad. It's something people should be fighting to change, not ignoring. Often, however, someone benefits from tormenting others. The result? "If you're upset, turn up your soma." And that's the quote I use when I see this shit happening.

It is vitally important to distinguish between conditions that need maintenance meds, conditions that need a few days or weeks of acute meds, and conditions that need some other solution altogether. But pills are easy and they make tons of money for pharmaceutical companies, so they get pushed a lot more than things like psychotherapy which is now all but impossible to get or massage therapy which activates the body's own feel-good chemicals and is also damn hard to get. Power and control issues, again. >_<

When I read about the rich and powerful being miserable or addicted to drugs, I figure they just got hoist on their own petard.

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elenbarathi From: elenbarathi Date: May 13th, 2019 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
" In case of mental illness with physical roots, pills are often the only thing that can fix that. No amount of talking will fix a bad biochemical imbalance. For some people, it's just a maintenance medication that makes them their normal self, like maintenance meds for asthma allow breathing."

The 'biochemical imbalance' thing has been thoroughly debunked over and over since the 80's. It is not true. It was never even really considered true by psychiatrists. Seriously, read the links; and when you're done with those, you might find this site helpful.

Nobody has a 'biochemical imbalance' that makes them need Vicodin in order to live a normal life. However, if you break your knee, a week or so of Vicodin can make your life a lot more bearable while you're getting used to your cast and crutches. If you had ONLY Vicodin, and no cast or crutches, your broken knee would probably set wrong and cause you pain for the rest of your life, thus causing you to want more Vicodin. That's pretty-much what happens to people with mental/emotional trauma who only get drugs, and no counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy. Those drugs were never meant for the long term; they're only supposed to help people through the acute phase of their depression, anxiety, delusions or whatnot, so they can get back on their feet enough to start addressing their issues.

In truth, the effects of cannabis are a lot more like soma in the book than either the opioids or the benziodiazepenes: it's good for pain, anxiety, depression, nausea and insomnia, and it's non-toxic - you can't overdose on it - and it's so easy to grow that the State will never be able to control it, try as it may. Thoreau said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" - that's not likely to get less true as the 21st century goes along, so maybe a little soma is not uncalled-for, while people are figuring out how to live in desperate times.
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