Having been victim to people’s gross and negligent dogma (both pro and anti-pharma)

For people being directed here from ONE of the groups I mention below—this topic was going on in more than one group and the resulting responses were to no one person in particular nor any group in particular the fact that this was going on in more than one group and the other emails aren’t included means these comments are by definition out of context…they were thoughts that came out of me spontaneously based on ideas that I’ve heard from all sorts of people throughout the movement. No one person was being addressed or targeted. And no one participating in these groups saw ALL the emails involved because it was happening in more than one group. I am, though, now being targeted. This is the original piece left untouched. I do not retract a word of it.

There was a conversation in a couple of my email groups that led to people talking about NEVER using psychiatric meds basically as policy.

I spoke up and started a small firestorm. I will leave out what others said but post my responses. More than one person thought that psych meds should NEVER be used in any circumstance ever.

I am traveling again today. A solid 9 hours so I won’t be able to release comments after about 11 am or so until late tonight.

This is a bit of a hack cut and paste job but I don’t have time to do otherwise…please discuss while I’m out and about.

These are my responses to the group, a bit out of context and mildly edited. Some people seem to be rather pissed off at me and some people thought I was attacking people which I was not. Nothing personal here, simply talking about the IDEA of NEVER using drugs in TODAY’S reality. Fuck it. You can’t please everyone all the time.

Regarding psych meds use:

you don’t agree that psych meds saved my life when I was toxic from a too rapid withdrawal?

2 days of Rispderal was necessary…

save us all from dogma please…
that is what nearly killed me in the detox center DOGMA…

pragmatism is essential when we care for others. Black and white thinking will hurt us all.

Responses that are not printed here again stating that drugs should never be used…then I wrote:

there are other crises in which drugs can be helpful..

Soteria house used them with 3% of their residents…short term…sometimes one needs a club over the head to be safe…very rarely but when they do it can be a godsend.

Soteria had a 85 to 90% recovery rate.

Jim Gottstein who started the new Soteria in Alaska also uses targeted short term application of neuroleptics for himself about twice a year. He generally gets away with using a neuroleptic ONE night. (Update and correction: I have been told that the drug Jim occasionally uses is a benzo and not a neuroleptic. This to me is immaterial. It’s still practicing sane use of medication. For me long term benzo use has been much more detrimental than my long term and excessive neuroleptic use—anyway it’s clear in the story that it is indeed a benzo he uses. I’m sorry for the mistake)

This is what I speak of…not just me. And not just detox. Sane use of medication.

Jim Gottstein’s story and light use of neuroleptics benzos is on my blog with his permission here.

I’m a survivor and I’ve worked with people in severe states of consciousness for 12 years.

While drugs should never be a first way to go people in severe states should have the right to be relieved of horrible suffering for short term periods…if they want it…

Informed choice is what it needs to be about…

Maintenance treatment is what is toxic. Short term targeted treatment in most instances won’t cause harm—in some instances people have radical side effects immediately but that is very rare.

A couple of days of treatment at the apex of a crisis is something altogether different…and in today’s world there is sometimes no alternative.

And if you start forcing people to not take drugs if they want them is that any better than forcing them too take them when they don’t??

Self-determination means people can make their own choices, no??

Taking options away when there is no other infrastructure of care is cruel and careless.

If and when we have an alternative infrastructure of care we MIGHT be able to entertain never using drugs…without such an infrastructure it’s ridiculous to think about.

And unless someone has been in the trenches working with people suffering extreme states and seen all the varieties of suffering people can go through,  I frankly don’t think someone can have an opinion that counts for much.

Other responses and then me again:

I won’t make any absolute statement about anyone’s reality…
No one knows the experience of anyone else…

I just got back from being royally screwed by a dogmatic clinic who refused to treat me as I needed. And I didn’t share the half of it on my blog.

No one knows what is right for another in every instance. I simply try to stay away from dogmatic absolute statements.

There is very little in the world that is all good or all bad…and when we take sides on one extreme or the other we cease to be able to see our brothers and sisters on the “other side.”

Is there really an other side??

That being said anyone who reads my blog knows I hate drugs in general…

In general people also assume I’m radically anti-drug and I frankly don’t care…because that’s what people do…make assumptions…about all sorts of things when they don’t know enough about a particular person or situation.

The infrastructure of care in mental health is the issue here.
If it were different we could indeed start implementing care that radically minimized any use of drugs and I support that. The day that options are actually available I will celebrate.

But we don’t live in that world and we have to be realists…if we’re not we will never achieve that world…that we so desperately need.

We have to partner and communicate with those who see differently than us…or we have no hope.

Lastly in an email written to a friend about my experience with the dogmatic clinic that refused to medicate me as I fell into a TOXIC psychosis THEY created by withdrawing me too rapidly, I wrote an awkward statement which I will print verbatim even though it is indeed awkward. The friend told me the statement had the makings of an aphorism. With some rewriting, I agree. No rewriting will happen today as I’m off to travel again. We still have about a nine hour drive ahead of us and I am not really up to writing a post and so you got this awkward cut and paste job. Here is the quote:

A lack of pragmatism and instead practicing dogma is dangerous.

And everyone…you all don’t know the half of what happened in that detox center. I left half of it out so as not to be a nasty bitch and further factionalize people. So if you think I’m being a bitch here as one person clearly did in the group discussion know that I chose not to share all sorts of information so as to avoid bad mouthing a group of people in spite of what they did—-that being criminal neglect of my well-being.

Update–my response to the comments:

I want to reiterate something I don’t know if people really got in the above post…

I don’t like drugs. I think alternatives should be available and ideally there would be safe places where such alternatives were offered.

The fact is there are not these safe places
and so without drugs many people would be in a dangerous situation but ONLY because of the lack of a better infrastructure of care…

I don’t believe drugs have to be necessary…I only believe they are NOW in our current climate of mental health care…we would be a healthier society if we did not use drugs and people healed through other means. There is no question in my mind about this.

ultimately they should be done away with…but given most people can’t get to a safe place when crisis hits they are sometimes necessary.

If we RADICALLY change how mental health care is viewed and practiced I do believe we could do most of our healing without drugs as indeed drugs don’t heal in any case. They only stop behavior and knock us out.

Unfortunately it’s not likely to happen in our life times so I revert to pragmatism…and the rights of individuals to determine what is appropriate for them in their lives in this world where proper care is not offered us.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

14 Responses

  1. I’m in total agreement with you. 2 doses of whatever they gave me at the Psych Ward and I was back thinking clearly again. I was suffering and needed relief soon. I thought I was going to die. I WANTED the drugs. I just never signed up for a lifetime of them.

    As horrible as all these options are, I know people who have had RELIEF from drugs, RELIEF from ECT. And it is their right to choose those paths. But they should never be coerced and never forced- and I wish that people were more informed about the risks.


  2. I wonder if these 150% anti-psychoactive substances folks live in a vacuum – well, obviously they don’t, since they hang out at discussion forums… – or how they keep their minds 150% clear of any mindaltering influence from their environment. I also wonder if they are aware, that every single word of theirs has a psychoactive, mindaltering potential to it. I guess, they aren’t, since they keep on voicing their dogma, in an obviously rather dogmatic, judging way.

    Informed choice is what it needs to be about

    Exactly. Dogmatism is always a danger. To consciousness, to freedom of choice, to life.


  3. Ellen

    I have been anti-drug consistantly since I was diagnosed almost ten years ago. I have fought drugs the whole way. Through forced hospitalizations I had people make me take drugs. I resented and mistrusted it. The bottom line is, I was not in control, was experiencing psychosis and I was unable to take care of myself.

    After repeated manic episodes that just wouldn’t stop no matter what I did without drugs, I finally came to the realization that I needed drugs to help me get through panic attacks and insomnia induced psychosis and it was OK. I was fortunate to find health care professionals who would help me find drugs to bridge my rocky periods. Never will I take anti-psychotic meds long term. I just won’t do it.

    When I am really manic, sleep meds were like baby aspirin or chalk, they don’t touch the surges of energy than run through me. I have no hope of going to sleep without high doses of something powerful when my mania hits the fan. Riding out the mania, catching the wave of creativity and spiritual awakening by staying awake for days doesn’t work for me, I’ve tried it. (That’s another giant subject entirely.)

    What Gianna said: “Taking options away when there is no other infrastructure of care is cruel and careless.” was very powerful and well said. I personally have come to appreciate emergency personnel and the healthcare system. They are there to help us no matter how much they may be tied to toxic mainstream ideas. I’d literally be dead in the gutter if it wasn’t for the infrastructure of care that currently exists. I even appreciate cops now, which I thought was never possible. The system is the system, as corrupt as it is in high places, it is held together by some very caring people. I for one, am very grateful to have a bridge to sanity available until I can take care of myself. What good are alternative cures if you are psychotic and in extreme distress? Long term solutions are something else entirely. When you are stable and able to think for yourself, you can embark on a healing journey in any direction you choose.

    I once went to a Naturopathic clinic when I was having an asthma attack. You wouldn’t believe what they put me through, asking me questions, trying to find a compound that worked. It took forever and I was almost dying in front of them. They had no proceedures in place to help me right then and there. (It might have been specifically who I was dealing with that reeked of incompetence.) They acted like they had never seen someone in distress before. They didn’t have the presence of mind to say “We can’t help you.” I went to an ER when I left the clinic and got an inhaler that helped me get through. (Which is not to say I never got buried in an ER waiting room.)

    No infrastructure of care? “Oh well, good luck with that.”

    Don’t make the mistake of putting blinders on and oversimplifying. Gianna is right-on with some very wise comments born of experience.


  4. Legan

    Two things pop out at me: one, you are on the mark when you write that “black and white thinking will hurt us all” and two, that people should have the choice to be “relieved if they want it.”

    We should be free to choose our paths to individual wellness taking into account all available information regarding pharmaceuticals and alternative therapies. Unfortunately, that information tends to be very hard to come by, and once an individual stumbles upon it, a strong feeling of betrayal can set in.

    What needs to happen is exactly as you stated: a new infrastructure for mental health must materialize, and your wonderful work here is helping to do just that.


  5. marigold

    I am also on a similar page of agreement…psych. drugs SERIOUSLY helped me through a major crisis after alcohol poisining….i just wish i wasn’t prescribed them long term… But just wanted to voice that i also believe black and white thinking tries to put things in boxes and humans are simply too complicated.

    I joined this website in my crusade to get off psych. drugs and i am interested in helping stop mass drugging of our society w/ psych drugs for non-emergencies, forced meds, etc. but i do still remember that they helped me through a spiritual and physiological emergency. Wish it could be as easy as black and white buts its just not.


  6. My opinions
    1)”Never psych drugs”
    Firstly, psych drugs are just one kind of drug. There are all kinds of mind altering drugs. Alcohol and nicotine for example. To force someone (an adult) to or NOT to consume a drug has to be up to a doctor who can tell if someone will physically die or not without a drug. If death is not imminent, you shouldn’t force someone to, or not to take drugs.

    Grey area is people who slowly kill themselves with too much alcohol, too much cigarettes, or too much (unhealthy) food.

    2)”Maintenance treatment is what is toxic.”
    It has an exception, once in a blue moon treatment can kill . Lots of stories of psych patients show in the emergency department, tells Doctor they can’t have drug X as they are allergic. Mentally ill is not believed. Drug X is “given” to patient who then gets severe Tardive Dyskinesia or nervous system collapse leading to death.

    3 “Care in mental health”
    As a rule there should be only free citizens and criminals in jail. For a doctor to force drugs or psychiatric drugs on someone there has to be a court hearing, with a defense lawyer and a prosecuting lawyer.
    If it is not life and death, there is time for court. Mental problems are not physically life and death threatening. Thats why they are called mental.

    If mental health care is voluntary , then the patient can leave when he/she wishes, as in no locked doors, no forced injections.

    One(adult) is either a criminal with limited rights, or a free citizen with rights , rights like deciding if they want medical treatment or not.


  7. Jerry

    Here’s the position I’m arriving at.

    Drugs should not be the primary modality of treatment. They should be used as an adjunct to treatment. There is a place for them and I think you describe that place well. They may be needed to keep people from doing something which they wouldn’t do if they weren’t so agitated, exercised, activated, upset, etc. They may be helpful in getting people to a state of enough calm and groundedness so they can participate in other kinds of help. And one of the goals of “treatment” should be helping people carefully withdraw from the drugs, if possible and advisable.

    I totally agree with your statement that the problem is there aren’t enough alternatives available to people. One thing I know is that there have never been more than 25 percent of the population that have used non-drug psychotherapy. Many people just won’t do it. So for them the choice is drugs or no treatment. And in some of those cases, drug treatment will be better than nothing.

    I agree with the MindFreedom position – what we want is choice, informed consent and a wide range of alternative ways of helping people who are experiencing spiritual emergencies, emotional distress, life crises, difficult dilemmas, etc. What we don’t want is forced treatment and the domination of biopsychiatry.


  8. It’s interesting you post this at this time because of what I’m going through right now. I’ve been about a year or so without drugs pretty much, seven months completely drug free and it’s been the best year of my life. I feel so much and it’s wonderful- most of the time.

    However, I am coming to realize that no matter what I do, I will cycle. Every Octoberish and Aprilish (though this year it’s May). On drugs or off drugs, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. The difference is the months outside of those two months are freaking wonderful off meds because life is amazing. It’s just pure hell the other two months in Fall and Spring.

    So now I’m considering using medication as an adjunctive therapy- I am still going to eat right, exercise, see my counselor and practice all of the daily living habits I have grown to love and incorporate in my life. But those months I cycle…this month in particular has driven me to the brink of my existence and dark places I swore I would never go back to.

    You are on the mark Gianna- we are pro-choice…it’s just as bad to force people NOT to take drugs as it is to force people TO take drugs.

    And there are some drugs I’d never take again, but I know some exist that can at least get me through a crisis and back to saneness. Should I consider myself weaker for chooses drugs for a few months out of the year?

    I don’t think so, I think it is more strength. Strength to realize what I need when I need it. I have a demanding job treating children with autism and they deserve my best and I’d be weaker for putting black and white thinking ahead of their needs as well. They need my brain in top physical form. Even if that means I need extra help every once in a while.

    Thank you for writing this…you have helped cement for me what I need to do right now. And given me strength to make this choice- my informed choice.



  9. In my experience rigid thinking can be a dangerous thing. When I became psychotic almost 3 years ago I welcomed any help I could get. I was scaring my children and I was close to suicide as being an option to escape the terror. Risperdal took me out of this state within 72 hours. The problem I have with this medication is that I was kept on it for long-term treatment. It caused horrible side effects and changed who I was completely. I believe drugs have their place in psychiatric treatment but careful decisions must be made.


  10. Jerry: One thing I know is that there have never been more than 25 percent of the population that have used non-drug psychotherapy.

    I just read a very similar statement at another blog today, saying that it would be better to focus on the future instead of past trauma in therapy, because with psychoanalysis it could take an eternity for a trauma victim to get to a point, where they can get on with their lives.

    The thing is, no one had said that trauma-focussed therapy necessarily needs to be psychoanalysis – that, indeed, can require not only years but decades of uncovering and working through the trauma, before someone is ready to go on and do on their own.

    Who said that the only alternative to drugs is psychotherapy? There are hundreds of different ways to deal with crisis without drugs. They would just have to be made available to people under the same conditions as the current paradigm of “help” is available today, and I bet the vast majority, more like 95 than 25 per cent, of people in crisis would choose to do without drugs (long-term at least). Actually, I found a poll on the net some two or three years ago – I don’t recall where, and I can’t find it now, if at all it’s still out there – that said 93 per cent of “the mentally ill” in the U.S. would prefer drug-free help if it was offered.

    Another thing is that your statement implies that people were given a real choice between drug-free and drug-combined therapy. As far as I know, drugs have been more or less heavily promoted ever since they were invented. Also by therapists. Maybe it’s more that no more than 25 per cent of all people in crisis at any time had the resilience to say “no” to the “offer”, and the luck to have their decision respected? Speaking from experience here, as I know what it took me to stand up to my therapist bullying me for months on end, trying to make me take drugs.


  11. Lori

    There is very little in the world that is all good or all bad…and when we take sides on one extreme or the other we cease to be able to see our brothers and sisters on the “other side.”

    Is there really an other side??

    That being said anyone who reads my blog knows I hate drugs in general…

    that is what I like most about you Gianna. You share your spiritual perspectives and then you show us you live them. As angry as you are about what has happened to you you don’t hate those who are often perceived to be the enemy.

    you are a peace maker and you deal with the world as it is.


  12. the main thing that makes this kind of debate so sticky is that there really isn’t at this time a network of alternatives to drug-only therapy and its debilitating consequences. together we can imagine and construct these alternatives but first we will have to drop our dogmas. yes the drugs have their uses but so far have never been equivocably shown to be effective in anything other than acute phase treatment. that combined with long-term usage effects like shortened lifespans, neurological disorders and decreased brain function make the claims of psychiatry suspect (add in that no biological causal factors have ever been located and psych becomes the only branch of medicine that treats ‘diseases’ with no known cause–and many other nuremburg code violations to round out that list). advocating ‘drug-only’ or ‘never drug’ positions just factionalizes us and reduces our ability to participate in our own liberation. right on gianna for sticking to your guns on this one and taking the time to spell out some of the inconsistencies in the reactionary comments you’ve received 😀


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