Perspectives on so-called medicine and mental health

Submitted by kore in MentalWellbeing

Hello,

Many people use what is variously called medicine, drugs, substances, etc. in order to remedy (there might be a better word besides remedy) perceived problems with their mental health, whether it is a remedy to a problem identified by an outsider (like a psychiatrist) or self-diagnosis and self-medication.

This can be anything from the more traditional SSRIs for depression, Benzodiazepines for anxiety, anti-psychotics etc. to smoking cigarettes to deal with stress, to using marijuana to relieve anxiety, to using drugs recreationally as a form of escapism, to using what are usually considered recreational drugs to treat depression (ketamine and psilocybin come to mind).

I'm wondering two things:

How do I/you navigate the distinction between beneficial use and dependence?

Do you think it's desirable at a fundamental level to have these sorts of drugs that provide relief or are they just a means of survival in an oppressive world?

If anyone can point me to written resources on these things (specifically theoretical and about the concept of "drugs" as a whole. I have read a few articles that treat the inefficacy of the approaches of modern psychiatry) that would be great.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

I have a general (personal) preference for what could be called "feeling my own feelings, and responding to the world from them - though this is probably often not possible for many". What follows should open the door into why:

"Here's a crazy idea: what if all your problems, your manias and phobias and dysfunctions, are actually natural, healthy reactions to a manic, paranoid, dysfunctional world? What if you are not messed up after all, but totally normal, and the hard things you are feeling are exactly what you are supposed to be feeling under these circumstances? Instead of thinking of yourself as a broken thing that needs fixing, consider what a healthy person would do if he or she were feeling this way. Rather than enthroning your problems as permanent fixtures in your life, accepting yourself can actually help you feel more capable of self-determination and transformation."
Crimethinc, Recipes for Disaster

So how do we envision drug use in this context?

There's no single answer that fits everybody. Some people literally need drugs to survive. Some people need drugs to survive as a certain version of themselves.

Here are some other thoughts, said aware that no single answer fits anybody.

I've seen many people become other people on prescription drugs. I know some people who are on prescription drugs who have had terrible things happen to them and have not responded with their own feelings. I have people in my family who have had so many prescription drugs for so long that I don't remember who they were and what they were like before them.

"Let's make our despair into a transformative force."

"what if ‘Staying Emotionally Stable’ is the opposite of what you should do? What if what we should do is let ourselves feel the world, and recognize that responding painfully to a world that hurts us, responding angrily to a world that enrages us, is the way to keep ourselves from ‘going crazy’? What if we recognized that the only way to fight the world is to stop fighting the feelings it builds within us, to recognize them for what they are, to learn to hold on to those that are righteous and to learn to discard those that build a world we do not want?" (source)

"The only consistent and honest fight is one we engage in for our own reasons, oriented immanently around our own idea of happiness. By the latter is meant not an individual psychological state, but rather the affective complicity and feeling of increased power that arises between people who, based on a shared perception of the lines of force surrounding them, act together to polarise situational conflicts in pursuit of ungovernable forms of life, in whatever experimental forms this might take in the present." ("No Selves To Abolish: Afropessimism, Anti-Politics and the End of the World")

Finally, critiquing the normative idea of happiness directly is also an important part of what I think needs to be done.

I think that kind of covers your second question, as for your first,

How do I/you navigate the distinction between beneficial use and dependence?

I don't. It's too complicated for me. I do psychedelics when I can and they are helpful. I wouldn't say I am dependent on them at all, but I'm not actually clear on what is wrong with dependence.

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kore OP wrote

Thanks for the links, definitely the type of thing I was looking for.

"Surviving as a certain version of themselves" is a good way to put it.

As for dependence, from reading these comments it's clear that I need to think more about articulating what aspects of dependence were negative for me.

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Infinity wrote

I feel the same way about you on this topic. What if we are SUPPOSED to use our emotions? What if that's what we are SUPPOSED to do.

Capitalism is a backward patriarchic mess. Perhaps if we allowed the feminine energy to guide us like the nature we would prize our emotional states and use them as tools toward higher states of consciousness. Maybe this is good energy after all that serves as guidance.

Drugs aid capitalism and capitalistic gains.

I'm not sure what the difference between use and dependency is for drugs that we feel we need in order to be higher functioning creatures within capitalism.

I do however draw the line between drugs and medicines where I consider all psychedelics medicines because they enhance our senses vs mask them. Also, psychedelics do not allow people to become higher functioning creatures within a capitalistic maze like drugs have been proven to do.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

I think that talking about psychedelics as medicine does make sense, but that it's a completely different idea of what medicine is to the western biomedical model.

So far as the word 'supposed' - it's actually the word I'm least comfortable with in the quote I used. I don't really think that anybody is supposed to be anything or do anything, in way like the world makes sense or has overarching meaning. I don't know anything about that, and nothing has happened to me that has made me think that.
But I do think that our responses to the world are ours, that understanding them as inappropriate or abnormal is also imposing a set of rules about how things should be, and this I absolutely reject - I think that it's completely bound up in capitalist values, and so to live accordingly is probably more likely to reproduce capitalism.

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Infinity wrote

I think that I'm learning this also. Living accordingly turns us into robots. After a long time struggle with dependency, I'm finally tasting a little bit of freedom a year later. My dance with the devil made me a function better as a robot. Only in that way was it liberating.... but I lost myself. A self that I would have otherwise grown up loving if the "rules" were based on love vs capital. If it wasn't for capitalism, I would have never of been so desperate to go down that path in the first place.

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ziq wrote

Do you know any bipolar people?

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

Yes - one of the family members I mentioned.

I really haven't had the opportunity or the strength to try to see together with that person and others how they might go about living a life without the drugs that they take. (At the same time, I've had to watch them barely respond to tragedy, probably because their drugs even out their emotions). I don't know what is possible there or how definitively it would be doomed to fail, but I do spend real time wondering whether if a small group of people were to band together in support of that person's life, taking collective precautions and care against the wide range of harms that might befall us, taking responsibility for each other, how we might create a space where it is possible for that person to live without drugs, and what the very existence of that space would mean for the world.

I suspect that most attempts at this would be doomed to quite overwhelming failure, but I don't know. I haven't seen what a kind of deeply radical mutual aid, mutual interdependence network would produce.
I do think that it would produce something new though - something outside of what capitalism can capture, a conceptual world outside of what exists that fundamentally threatens what exists.

I'm quoting crimethinc a lot but I'm thinking here also about that quote they have on beauty; "Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy."

I should reiterate here that I have no negative judgement for those who take drugs.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these things.

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ziq wrote

I don't feel qualified to offer my thoughts.. beyond having people in my life that have taken medication for depression / bipolar disorder / adhd / etc. I really don't know anything about this.

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Pop wrote

I've used prescription drugs when I needed to get through something without compounding my problems through failure
(with minimal success)

i.e. If I'm doing really badly and I have some task or project that needs completing or I will have a significantly worse time, I don't mind doing drugs to get through that

I've now also confused myself about what dependence is

I don't care so much what people do, though I'd like them to position themselves in a way that best allows them to bring about new modes of being for themselves and others
Seems to me that some people might need drugs in order to affect the world at all, and that for some people drugs blunt their ability to affect
choosing to do them anyway is ok though since life can be very hard!

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RedEmmaSpeaks wrote

I know if I stop taking my pills, I get really scary, really fast. But as of late, I have wondered if the Brain Chemicals Theory governing this form of treatment, while there's some truth in it, if it isn't somewhat simplistic.

Ever have the moment where you know something is wrong, but you don't know how to voice it? When you do stumble onto someone who manages to voice it, it's like somebody has turned on a light in a dark room. You fight the urge to stand up and shout, "Yes! That's what it's like!"

That was kind of what I went through when Big Think had two short videos with Johann Hari. Hari doesn't dismiss the use of pills entirely, but again, feels the Brain Chemicals Theory is simplistic and doesn't completely address the problem. The guy's written a book, which I'll probably get when I can.

Anyway, here are the videos.

Video One: https://youtu.be/7ZbPECl16bc

Video Two: https://youtu.be/Hp-L844-5k8

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dele_ted wrote

Ever have the moment where you know something is wrong, but you don't know how to voice it?

Not directly related to this topic, but i really want to stress the importance of listening to this feeling (at least in my experience) instead of ignoring it simply because it's hard to get a grasp on. My feeling of something being a little off never fails.

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RedEmmaSpeaks wrote

Agreed. So much of the shit in my life, stems from me trying to shove this feeling down and ignore it, so I can get along with my day-to-day life. I'm not egotistic enough to proclaim that the whole world is suffering from this feeling, but I imagine that a vast majority of the population knows that something is fucked up, even if they aren't sure why or how to fix it.

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dele_ted wrote

There's a scene in The Matrix where this feeling is described perfectly:

Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

One problem with gut feelings is that they also often hide prejudice.

It's no accident that people are more likely to get gut feelings that they're in danger when walking past someone in the street if that person is a black man in a hoodie.

So I think we need to be very careful of how we interpret our gut in light of how it is conditioned by society.

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dele_ted wrote

That's a good point. It's important to listen to this feeling, but it's also important to be critical towards it. I suppose it's one of those things you just have to learn with time, by experience.

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RedEmmaSpeaks wrote

That's true. You should never follow any one rule completely; there's a reason absolute morality almost invariably always falls apart. It's just a good chunk of the time, if something inside you is saying, "Wait, there's something wrong here," often there's a good reason. You should investigate this feeling, trying to figure out where it comes from, and why you're feeling it. Even if it turns out to be wrong like, say, born of prejudice like you suggested, there's a reason this feeling exists and that reason warrants being addressed in some fashion.

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DaisyDisaster wrote

Beneficial use and dependence can be a complicated thing. I take anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic for my depression. I often forget to take them, sometimes for days, but I don't have withdrawal symptoms, my mood just takes a sharp downward turn. After the turn, I struggle to take care of myself and I think about suicide, so it's important for my health and safety (not to mention my job) to take them.

I wouldn't meet the medical definition of dependence, but given their importance, wouldn't I be dependent on them to live "normally"? I could maybe live without them before (although terribly), but now that I know how good it feels to be on them, I don't want to.

As to whether it's desirable, I think it really depends on the person taking them. I do think that much of what we call mental illness is caused by living in an oppressive society, but I also don't discard the possibility that some people would have a hard time with their mental health even if we controlled for that.

I think it's a bit of both for me. At one point I had broken through my depression, was managing my social anxiety well and making a lot of progress with it, and was feeling great without medication. Then one day I had a minorly stressful thing happen where a woman yelled at me in traffic and it all unravelled. I think I'm just prone to stress about things more than others.

The only downside to medication I've personally experienced and am worried about is that I'm building a tolerance to my current medication. I've only been on it a year and my depression is coming back, although not as bad as it was before. I don't want to keep increasing my meds until I have to change them over and over again until nothing works. I remember what it was like to live my life before and it haunts me. I don't want to go back to that.

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kore OP wrote

Thanks for your thoughts. I think you're right about 'dependence.' It's a strange word and maybe not always negative. I think that bias came from my experience.

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