America is obsessed with drugs. Prescription Drug companies are legal drug dealers, while those marketing illegal recreational drug of a lesser degree like marijuana are persecuted. However, the true criminals are the pharmaceutical drug companies whose mal intentions do more harm than good- destroying our one and only Earth for materials to produce and distribute drugs through highly unsustainable land and water practices and land consolidation alike. The pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable business in the Nation with Americans paying more than $200 billion each year for prescription medications. Reliance on prescription drugs is so widespread that 25% of US women take medications developed in labs for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other chemical imbalances. A Western pharmaceutical hegemony has ignited a state of dependence between people and lab produced medications. Overdose of medications is one of the country’s top causes of accidental death-America has an addiction problem. By turning a blind eye to we fall victim to companies profiting off of people’s illnesses when we could be proposing alternative medical treatment options that do not depend on keeping people addicted.
Before a pharmaceutical industrialized hegemony reigned over the West, folk medicine had actually been practiced for centuries, since before the times of antiquity. Specifically, Ayahuasca, an ancient healing brew- which relies on N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a compound discovered to be found in almost every living thing. DMT induces extremely vivid psychedelic visions and in the west is primarily used as a recreational psychedelic. While some say DMT is justified in being illegal, this compound has been used in both medical and spiritual practices for thousands of years. Traditional medicine practices that use the ayahuasca experience as therapy are not as prevalent in Western culture, yet they are still practiced by remaining Shamanic cultures around the world. The US is a country where both heroin and cocaine combined don’t kill as many people as the abuse of prescription pain medication do. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) declares DMT – a compound found in most living things that also has incredible healing capabilities, as a criminal schedule 1 drug. This is a call to global citizens who are concerned with the health and livelihoods of people who suffer from addiction, and the other chemical imbalances. This is a call to demand that the United States allow alternate treatment options for individuals with chemical imbalances such as addiction and other health issues related, because many alternatives are more sustainable compared to Big Pharma.
I understand how people might be skeptical and suspicious at the mention of altered states of consciousness because of the association it carries with hallucinogenic substances such as psilocybin, mescaline and LSD. These substances were all made illegal in the late 60s and many people might say that they were commonly abused by a counterculture who probably questioned the validity of our society under the influence of these substances and thus gave the drugs a negative connotation. Yet, what people tend to overlook is that things like caffeine, sugar, and meditation can also induce altered states of consciousness as would any other hallucinogenic substances. The main ingredient to ayahuasca is DMT, which hyperactivates the prefrontal cortex in the brain and enables people to make new connections and develop new thought patterns. Ultimately, this organic compound has the potential to help urge people to stop thinking and behaving in self-destructive ways.
Due to the legal status of DMT and consequently of ayahuasca in the US and other Western countries, there is minimal scientific research about its role in regards to brain chemistry and biology. People may wonder what makes these alternatives different from the mainstream. Couldn’t ayahuasca and other healing plants be abused too? It is true that these alternative healing practices could be abused by individuals through the exploitation of patient’s experiences and the capitalization on the substance rather than focusing on the individual who is seeking healing. Ill-intended people who are not in the fields of medicine, therapy, or psychiatry can create unsafe spaces for people seeking rehabilitation. Upon ingestion of ayahuasca, people operate in extremely vulnerable mental and physical states- many people experience lucid visuals while simultaneously vomiting and releasing toxins from the body. Those who are inexperienced would be unequipped to deal with patients in this state, especially under the influence of DMT. Admittedly, people have every right to be hesitant towards supporting a relatively abstract or “taboo” alternative to prescription medications because of the fundamental lack of research in the area.
The use of ayahuasca as a method of rehabilitation to substance abuse should not be taken lightly or overlooked in any capacity. A biomedical study conducted at a confidential Ayahuasca church in the Americas advanced an idea that ayahuasca may have therapeutic attributes for substance abuse that aid individuals of overcoming damaging cycles of relapse (McKenna etal. 129). To be blunt, adults should be the masters of their own destiny and therefore should possess the freedom to choose how they go about addressing their health. All paths towards recovery must be sought out by the individual- this is especially true in regard to ayahuasca due to the sheer intensity of the whole experience. While there is a plethora of ayahuasca testimonials, I thought it would be appropriate to include a particular story of an American woman who published her experience online. This woman had suffered a traumatic childhood and became a homeless youth and teen mom at seventeen. She turned to a life of substance abuse in order to cope with her demons. She was an alcoholic for 12 years, at which time she began mixing substances like whiskey and Xanax to almost the brink of death. After an intervention, she searched for alternatives, which led her to the Ecuadorian Amazon where she could participate in a three-day ayahuasca ceremony.
The visions for this woman appeared to her on the third day of the retreat and drastically turned her entire life around for the better. “As the medicine started to take effect I began to notice a veil was being lifted. I was being raised out of my body by beings made of colorful light…about fifteen of them took turns sending light into my heart…[then] they started at my feet and went through every cell in my body…they got to my stomach and showed me all the processed foods were poisoning me. They came to my lungs and showed me all the damage years of smoking had caused. My stomach began bubbling with all this sickness…they brought me back into my body so I could release the toxins. Vomiting and defecating simultaneously while having visions that I was releasing pain, fear, years of alcohol and drugs, trauma, and depression. I was shown that in order to make room for love in my life I would have to release all the negativity in my life. I was done with all of it and was ready to let it go.” Many other the testimonials align well with this woman’s experience with intense out of body sensations and in body manifestations. The effectiveness of these experiences is also worth further examination. In fact, Brazil is already beginning to permit the use of ayahuasca tea in therapies. For instance, the country’s growing prison population is a major problem driving a continuous search for new ways to rehabilitate inmates to decrease recidivism and enable prisoners to reintegrate back into society non-violently (Romero). The use of ayahuasca in therapy to spark transformative experiences within a person is a model of effective rehabilitation that we Americans ought to investigate.
There are various forces that must come together to change the current state of modern medicine and rehabilitation for a healthier future; people in the field of medicine and rehabilitation, drug policymakers, and people who care about the wellness of others. While the legal status of these compounds creates obstacles in doing legitimate research on the role of these chemicals in nature, there are individuals in fields of medicine and academia who consider how “directions of shamanic based therapy for drug dependence [ could be] suggested”. Moreover, some even believe that lack of treatment options available to patients is preventing the advancement of scientific medicine and preventative health; there is no cure to addiction, and current treatment options produce further drug dependence (Winkelman 338). When the reality is that the medications pharmaceutical companies are prescribing to the public are killing more people than both heroin and cocaine combined in this country, the urgency of finding alternative methods of rehabilitation increases tremendously.
It must all begin with the chemical DMT becoming legal in the US. Doing so would open up space for people to explore different ways to incorporate out of body, life transformative methods of rehabilitation that physically jolt the person out of their destructive behaviors and mindsets. Please reconsider why certain plants and compounds found in nature are deemed extremely illegal in a land that produces chemicals in labs that also induce altered states of consciousness, but often perpetuate the very culture of addiction that the medications claim to resolve. If there is any chance for patient rather than profit-focused modes of rehabilitation to be available, there must be a strong consensus of compassionate global citizens who agree that adults seeking treatment for chemical imbalances should be given more options than just replacing one dependency for another. Consider the alternatives, and consider the people.
Writing this essay was tricky for me because I feel as though there were many directions I could have gone with this topic. At first I felt like readers could have got lost in all of the information I was providing and be bogged down by that information and not really understand what I was saying. But after several peer reviews I think that I successfully made a clear argument that also provided a clear action to take. I do admit that the action I proposed to demand alternative treatment options is not extremely concrete, yet the way Western culture typically responds to the sheer mention of DMT or other psychedelic substances makes it difficult to get past the fact these compounds are illegal in the US. And so the conversation always goes back to making these substances legal and also changing the way the public perceives them. Overall, I think if I had space in this paper to go into more depth about how DMT and Ayahuasca could revolutionize medicine practices in our world, this essay could be more convincing. I don’t think I constructed a straw man argument, but there is always room for more evidence to create a solid foundation.
Over the course of this semester, I think I have developed my ability to break down rhetorical arguments and also enter conversations in writing much more eloquently and efficiently. I also have been able to develop my skills as a peer reviser by cultivating my ability to provide constructive feedback and asking critical questions about my own work during the revision process. My writing has become a lot more clear and concise and I have a better understanding of my own writing process. Also the books referenced in class helped me develop new ways to lay out arguments and also break them down. I have definitely grown as a writer in this class in the best way and am going to take the tools learned in this class to apply to my writing beyond.