Hi. My name is John, and I have experimented with a lot of drugs that affect the mind. No, I am not a drug addict. I have a mental health history, and when I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor who specialized in drugs that affect the mind. I wanted to be a psychiatrist, and one way to learn about drugs that affect the mind is to carefully and methodically test them out.
The first rule when it comes to drugs that affect the mind is never discontinue them abruptly. Bad things will happen. For example, imagine a drug that changes you from sad to happy. You take this drug for a week. If one day you decide to suddenly discontinue, you will feel more sad than if you never took the drug in the first place. This “reverse” effect has different names, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just call it the withdrawal effect. Good medical doctors do not put patients through the withdrawal effect. They taper people off gradually and use more gradual, longer lasting, extended release or slow release alternatives which are less addictive.
How does this translate into “the war on drugs”? Well first off, if the people who worked in prisons were doctors, they wouldn’t cut people off many of these drugs such as heroine abruptly. They would calculate how much heroine the person has been consuming and give them a gradually decreasing amount of either that opioid or a substitute opioid each day. This technique is valid for virtually any drug that affects the mind.
Here’s the problem. There is a very severe shortage of people who are qualified to do this and their learning in school is not reflective of the learning that they need in order to do this job. There is a multiple months long waitlist to see a psychiatrist in America, and many psychiatrists who went to medical school suck at psychiatry. There are psychiatrists who are less qualified to treat schizophrenia than I am, and I didn’t even go to medical school. Frankly, you don’t actually need to know any bodily anatomy or physiology to treat schizophrenia – if you understand the mind, have personal mental health experiences that can relate to those of your patients, read journals, and have tested out over a dozen different pills and analyzed their effects on the mind, that’s more valuable than all the anatomy and physiology courses in the world in terms of actually doing the job of a psychiatrist.
Now here’s the problem. Most insurances do not cover these treatments fully. I personally have had to pay money out of pocket for a psychiatrist. In another case, I submitted a form to my health insurance company and instead of them paying me the full $100, I got maybe $18 back from the insurance company. There is a wait list and in addition to the wait list, it is relatively expensive. People who are going to prison and also mentally ill homeless people don’t have the means to get ahold of good professional treatment.
Much of psychiatry isn’t really medicine in the traditional sense. Like to me, most mental conditions are not really medical diseases. They are just deviations from what is mentally the norm or the average in the population. Deviations from the norm are normal in populations. There are all sorts of mental differences in the population. These mental differences are only considered a disease that needs to be treated when they become a problem. Some people have minds that might be very abnormal, but they do just fine, so they’re not treated.
Think about human height. Some people are really short. Some people are really tall. Being super short isn’t a problem until you need to dunk a basketball. Then all of a sudden being short becomes a problem. Then you admit that you have a problem and that you need stilts to get the basketball into the hoop. Mental disabilities are kind of like that. They’re not really diseases in the way the common cold is a disease. It doesn’t really make sense to categorize mental conditions or abnormalities as diseases. A psychiatrist once told me that he only uses the manual of mental disorders for billing purposes for health insurance companies. It doesn’t really make sense to give mental conditions or irregularities numerical codes like the codes that are given for medical procedure billing purposes. Codes aren’t made for patients – they are made for health insurance companies. In fact, I would argue that the medical system as a whole is not made to cater to the patients – it is made in such a way as to cater to the health insurance companies. From a business perspective, the patients are not the customer – the health insurance companies are the customer.
Basically, the mental healthcare system in the United States is fundamentally fucked up. There aren’t even prices that I can look at before I get billed for something that I ask my doctor for despite the fact that the money is coming out of my checking account. The American healthcare system as a whole has serious issues, with the mental healthcare system being particularly fucked up. If the system is done right, there will be huge improvements for vulnerable people like drug addicts and mentally ill homeless people. A system done right can make a huge difference for the end customer – the citizen.