Monday, September 22, 2014

Psychedelics and latent mental disorders

Would it be better to have it come out during a trip rather than later on in life risking achievements and social networks?

I say yes...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Drug use is not a choice...

Much like sexual preference, drug use is not a rational choice but an intuitive preference.

Therefore it should be respected like other personal preferences (i.e. sexual orientation).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Marijuana revisited but not seen

The article "Marijuana revisited" from Psychology Today:
My Response to Above Article:
Dr. Troncale,

After reading your recent and brief article "Marijuana revisited", I conclude that you have a facile and myopic view on the topic of cannabis and the notion of cognitive liberty which is the backbone of our democratic way of life.

First, the article you cited, much like the one from Boston earlier this year, has severe limitations including insufficient sample size, short age range, and the absence of behavioral correlates. It is scholarly irresponsible to conclude behavioral effects from a study which does not conclude anything about behavior. Also, the article itself takes the increase in rehab numbers for pot as a reason for concern- as if they are self-admitted. This is because of the law and the option between that and jail time. If they missed this simple sociological fact, then their whole scholarship should be thrown into question.  

Maybe teens are disillusioned by a government which tells them cannabis is on par with heroin and so they feel they can't trust any authority. If only drug policy reflected facts instead of xenophobic historical precedents, would people be more trusting of authority figures funded by government such as yourself. Facts only seem worthless when spun by propaganda.

When you say cannabis is a dangerous drug, you cite no source but 1984? It is true that of those who use cannabis a small number will fit some kind of dependency- although it may be more close to caffeine dependency than alcohol dependency. But it is again scholarly reprehensible to word the sentence as to make it seem that ten percent of the whole population may fall "victim" to cannabis "addiction".

Have you ever smoked or used cannabis? By your writing it does not seem so. For instance, you liken cannabis to a mind numbing agent. This ignores the fact the cannabis is regarded as a psychedelic which means mind manifesting- not closing. And those from Karry Mullis to Francis Crick are a testament to psychedelics mind expanding rather than mind numbing effects. Cannabis is not a narcotic- any psychopharmacologist can tell you that. Plus, what would be so hilariously funny to someone with no emotions!?    

If the talking points seem tiresome, that may be because your own cognitive dissonance is wearing you thin. Define medical qualities that are safe? How about the millions of people who feel relief from their pain, with the absence of side effects they find with prescription or OTC medication? Even if you feel some of their aliments are not genuine or sufficient, who are you to stop them if they are not interfering with you? Are you an enemy of liberty? Are you a control freak who wants to see the world in the way he thinks makes the most sense? If so you are not alone; there are all the current and past tyrants of history who are would share these feelings. I hope you are incredibly ignorant on the topic and find the harm immensely over inflated instead.  

No one in the cannabis reform movement would want to seriously let children smoke. This is a red herring of an argument and shows the lack of understand you have of the topic at hand. People are calling for adult responsible use of cannabis. In the case of medicine for seizures and other medical issues, they can be prescribed to children.

Again, have you ever used cannabis? Because many will protest against these effects your describing. Many anecdotal reports will show you that the numbing of pain from cannabis and opiates are vastly different. For instance, opiates mask pain. Cannabis on the other hand does not mask pain, but allows the user to delegate the pain to the bottom on his/her list of priorities, as they becomes absorbed in some other activity.

Your fallacious and demagogic arguments appear again as you warn of potentially incompetent surgeons cutting people up while while high on pot. What if they preferred alcohol or a large dose of jittery-hands inducing coffee instead? Any well trained and mature person has the ability to refrain themselves- so this would be a personality issue, not a drug one.

Moreover, if many of these illegal drugs were legal, I don't think they would be "widely available". They would be regulated and people would be informed about proper use and harm reduction techniques. Also, if these substances were legal- pharmacologists could engineer alternatives with more target effects and less side effects. It could be that drugs like heroin, if made legal, would become obsolete, as they would be replaced by safer alternatives.

Here is some further reading by scholars and scientists in the field of psycho and neuro pharmacology. They will inform your beliefs about drugs and help you see through the biases and hand-me-down propaganda presented in your article. Although these are books, they are filled with references to peer-reviewed articles.

-Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances
By  Ronald K. Siegel Ph.D.

-Drugs Without the Hot Air
By David Nutt Ph.D.

-High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society
By Carl Hart Ph.D.

I hope for a response from you.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

3 Ways Prohibition Makes Drugs More Dangerous

The three dangers of Prohibition: A new approach to drug use in the media.

When most people think of illegal drugs, danger comes to mind. For them, the laws against these substances are in place to protect law-abiding citizens from the menace these compounds would allegedly bring about. Therefore, when they think of drug users they either have a picture of a helpless addict incapable of making rational decisions or a violent offender willing to hurt anyone to get their fix. However, in actuality what causes these substances to be dangerous does not stem from their direct effects on the body- as if there wasn’t a safe way to use them; rather, prohibition by its very practice produces harmful effects, that would disappear with the abolition of the current drug ban. Specifically, there are three aspects of prohibition cause an illegal drug to go from something to be approach with caution and knowledge to something capable of destroying the health and personality of the user and their loved ones: (1) Purity (2) Ostracizing via Criminality (3) Ignorance of the drug’s effect profile. These three facets, I believe, contribute to virtually all of the negative effects from illegal drug use- most notably, this triad can be applied to the interpretation of media stories covering drug use and abuse. That is, these three factors can help one understand the effect of prohibition on drug use in a clearer and rational light.    

Before moving on to the details regarding these three aspects, it would be useful to properly consider other prohibitions or unregulated markets vis-√†-vis today’s alcohol and meat production. Some may be familiar with the term “bathtub gin”. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the clandestine production method of gin. As suggested by the term, there was little regulation of production, so that the final product has sub-optimal quality (e.g. impure, or wrong concentration of alcohol). This notion relates to the first aspect of impurity. Moving on, we can draw an analogy that can frame today’s situation within that of the meat market before the book The Jungle from the early 1900s was published. The book was an expos√© of the then current meat market and, some may say, it’s clandestine production methods- reminiscent of the bathtub gin of almost a generation later. Thus, it should be plain to see that when products are not regulated or legal their quality drops so significantly, it may induce harm to its users.

The first aspect is probably the most well known to the general public, although that is not to say it is wildly known (or even close to it). The concept is simple to grasp, yet cannot be exhausted as easily. As noted above, when markets are made illegal and have little regulation, the product produced is of very low quality. The quality may be so low that the merchandise becomes tainted with another unwanted substance. For instance, heroin users may be sold something that is labeled as heroin but may, in fact, be almost anything else. The dealer may have run out of heroin and instead uses a pharmaceutical opiate which has a completely different dosage range (perhaps 10x more potent), thereby causing the user to OD. Perhaps during the production of the drug a metabolite other than the drug is mixed in with the final product by accident. Drugs like MPTP that are definite neurotoxins can be accidentally synthesized while producing other compounds. In a regulated and legal market, these problems would be averted, thereby leaving the pure product at the right dosage.

Moving forward to the next aspect requires us to think outside of ordinary distinctions associated with legal/illegal and good/bad because the following reorients these boundaries. We usually associate that which is illegal with that which is ethically reprehensible. Actions like murder, rape, and theft are morally reproachable. Some may classify the use of certain drugs in this same group. But history informs us that what is illegal is not necessarily equal to what is immoral or unethical. Laws which restricted the freedom of prior oppressed groups like women, blacks, gays, and the disabled, are now known today as obstacles which held us back from the more civilized society we have today. With that in mind, it is not farfetched to believe that some of these unjust laws are still around us today; and like the generations of past, we need to look beyond our conventions to see how those groups we demonize are actually oppressed (e.g. drug users).

With that said, the second aspect addresses this problem of criminality. As the name implies, when someone’s activity is made illegal, they become a criminal; it follows then that if one’s activity of choice is criminal, then one must hide it from others who might inform the authorities. This process of keeping one’s use hidden is difficult and usually, results in problems for the user and loved ones. In trying to keep the activity secret, complications may arise- these include time management problems, feelings of insecurity, guilt, and doubt about hiding use, being arrested and convicted as an offender, the social stigma which comes with being identified as a user, losing employment due to unjust drug screenings, and much more. One cannot do an act that is criminal without repercussions to oneself in the long run. This is the case for anything made illegal. If milk was made illegal, its users would have a difficult time drinking, buying, and storing their milk. It would take up much more of their time and energy than if it was legal. In sum, making anything criminal makes it users have a much more dangerous and difficult time doing the activity, thereby challenging the notion that the activity was dangerous to begin with, in order to justify it being illegal- as the illegality makes it far more dangerous than if legal.

The last aspect is both the most straightforward and yet paradoxically is the least understood by most people: many are ignorant of the effect profile and form/route of administration of illegal drugs. That is, when it comes to understanding what a drug does to someone, as well as how the way it is taken can affect them, most people including users are uninformed. For instance, many users know well that sniffing a drug and taking it orally produce dramatically different effects; but what they may not know is that causing a drug to enter the bloodstream quicker makes that drug more addictive. Or they may know about tolerance, but may not know that after a break of using one’s drug of choice, tolerance drops considerably. This last case is what causes so many heroin addicts to OD once out of rehab or prison; they are unaware that their tolerance has dropped, causing them to take the same dose they used when tolerant. Cases like these are avoidable with nothing but knowledge. Another case is when people may take a drug while ignorant of its effects and so end up hurting themselves. Such is the case with drugs like cannabis or psychedelics, were those ignorant to them may find themselves in an experience they could have never foreseen. The fact of the matter is that when people are uninformed, they make worse decisions. Prohibition acts as a gatekeeper by shunning out all knowledge of drug use, labeling it evil or dangerous. Objective and accurate knowledge about drugs which saves lives should be freely available. Websites like help by providing factual information about illegal drugs. But it is not until the drug ban is lifted that we could properly educate people on the proper ways to use and what to avoid along the way.

These three aspects which make prohibition a danger to products that people desire can be used to elucidate how stories of drugs in the media point to the dangers of the drug ban. The next time a story appears on the news related to drug use, ask these kinds of questions:
-Was the issue related to composition, of the drug?
-Did the substance it have any other substances besides the one the user aimed to use?
-Did the issue involve steps taken to hide use from others?
-Was the user arrested for their use?
-Were the complications from the drug due to some preventable issue (e.g. OD due to ignorance of tolerance dynamics)?
-Did the user have information available concerning their particular method and type of substance use?
Once questions like these can be answered, we can learn how what made the drug dangerous in the first place was not the drug itself, but the criminality and ignorance of the drug due to prohibition.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Imagine if alcohol was insufflated

The Route of Administration (how a drug is taken into the body) and the form of the drug (what it is contained in) are very important for understanding both the long and short term effects on health and society.

The same chemical can have vastly different effects depending on these two factors.

The war on drugs restricts the available ROA and forms of drugs, thereby making them potentially dangerous.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What Rape Culture?

I think the issues with rape has more to due with classism than sexism or a culture which has codified rape.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Importance of Privacy Explained with Farts.

"Privacy is for the sake of others, as much as it is for ourselves."

There’s an episode of South Park where the town’s residents stop farting because they find out the gases are diminishing the ozone layer. To their dismay, holding in farts causes people to explode. So now the town is faced with a dilemma: keep farting- stinking up the place and hurting the environment, or stop farting and risk spontaneous internal combustion.

I cant help but feel this situation is kind of like the issue we have today regarding privacy and security. It seems that security and privacy are opposed to each other, just like farting and clean air are opposed. What’s the solution?

I don’t remember how the episode ended, but the analogy proves useful- albeit, removing the part about ozone depleting. What to do when farting is beneficial for health, but is unpleasant in public? You fart in private places like when alone or in bathrooms. But what does this have to do about privacy and security?

Farting is something done in private because it stinks. Its done in private not because it is illegal or immoral, just unpleasant. Today, many are quick to claim they have nothing to hide, as if their farts don’t stink. If privacy is not for the sake of oneself, it should be for other’s sake. Your private actions may not be as palatable as your public actions in much the same way as your farts are not as pleasant as your average body order. Privacy is for the sake of others, as much as it is for ourselves. It keeps the public space free from one’s dirty laundry stinking it up.

A foul order may be as disturbing or distracting as knowing someone’s personal dietary, consumer, bathroom, and hygiene habits. These aspects of ourselves which are usually kept private are help keep our public image as intended- to focus on trade and production. That is not to say one’s personal life is divorced from their public life- rather one’s public life should carry as less baggage as possible to foster economic and civil means. Knowing what one bought last week may interfere with the public interaction. In other words, someone’s public image is best kept simple and relevant to a persons occupation and goals in that arena. Knowing extra information about someone will only hinder and transaction or communication in the public sphere. Therefore, privacy is important for a well functioning public image.

One might contend that the issue of privacy is insignificant considering that the “watchers” are benevolent government officials and contractors who only are accomplishing a important duty: keeping the public “safe”. It’s safe to say that a quick Google search will reveal numerous articles and reports (some from congress and other government organizations) demonstrate that large surveillance systems do not help deter crime or terrorism. One example is the knowledge of an immanent attack before 9/11 known by most of the alphabet government agencies- yet the problem was a lack of communication and not spying.

The truth of the matter is the NSA’s massive dragnet surveillance is done for the benefit of those in power who want to quash dissent by pulling up someone’s “profile” of past private (spied on) activity and tarnishing their image. This is done by removing out of context ambiguous pieces of information, and twisting them to fit some precontrived straw man. This is done for control, not safety. Both the Boston bombing and the UCSB spree killing are examples of how the abundance of information does not change the outcome. The authorities either had access to or were informed of the perpetrators and their intentions, but did not further any investigation. The authorities could of done much more law enforcement with a lot less spying.  

All in all, privacy is what allows us to be fully rounded human beings by leaving space that is all one’s own- not directly allocated to others. Privacy in this regard is akin to a mirror image of oneself. Whereas commonly we look toward others, a mirror helps up look towards our self by means of a refection. Therefore privacy is a necessary time to reflect on oneself and make judgments and comments- helping one face the public world again just like a mirror helps you fix up before going out to see others. But just like farts, privacy is done alone away from other for both one’s own sake, and the sake of others.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Adding Vices to Society by Drug Legalization? (Are you a xenophobe?)

I go over three counter points to the argument that legalizing drugs will hurt society by adding more vices.

Three points are:
Legality is not a licence for use. Just because it is legal does not mean it is encouraged.

Making drugs illegal makes them dangerous because of the issues of purity, social ostracizing (being a criminal), and ignorance of drug effects.

Allowing for some vices and not others is a xenophobic position as it does not allow foreign drugs to be accepted although the legal drugs can have more or the same negative health outcomes.

Don't be a xenophobe, support legalization.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sex just for Procreation? Drugs just for Medicine?

I talk about how the common idea that marriage or sex is done for more than procreation is akin to the idea that drugs are not just for medicine- they are both invalid and entail one another.  

I go over two approaches: Denial and Expansion. 

-Denial regards the claim that sex is just for procreation as false by using examples from humans and nature how sex is utilized for more than procreation. In this same way, both animals and humans use drugs for more than the relief of a dysfunctional symptom.  

-Expansions reexamines the definition of the words procreation and medicinal, by expanding them to include short term goals like relieving stress for overall function (procreation) and changing mood (medicinal).  

Therefore, if you accept the claim that drugs are only for medicine, then you must accept that sex is only for procreation. That is, the two claims have the same underlying logic- they imply each other. 

Hopefully by the end of this video you're able to understand how both these claims imply each other and are both invalid. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Free from Bias?

"Man is free to the extent he knows himself"
-Alan Watts

Many people feel that they can take an unbiased view of an issue or event. They tell themselves, "let me consider this in an unbiased manner". They may do an experiment or search for some relevant information which comes from outside of them. Therefore as the source of the information is external, they feel its unbiased. So one will hear "its based on math" or "evidence" when hearing rationale behind a claim- done in order to justify it.

But can we ever be free from bias? My opinion is no we can't, if unbiased means we are taking a point of view which does not exclude. All points of view exclude by their very nature. There is no point of view from nowhere. Each point of view takes on a certain perspective in spite of some other perceptive. I look right so I exclude what's on the left. I consider a mathematical perspective which excludes a qualitative perspective. Every perspective is opposed to some other perspective- no perspective can include it all.  

Where does that leave those who want to act in an unbiased manner? This is where the epigraph comes into use and Mr. Watts gives us some advice: we can become unbiased by becoming aware of our biases, rather than attempting to remove them. We will always have our biases- it gives us our identity. Bias may as well be a ontological phenomenon rather than a purely semantic one.

All in all, bias defines our point of view. It is impossible to remove all bias. Each point of view excludes some aspects of reality. Therefore, if we want to become free of our biases we must get to know them. We must familiarize ourselves with the biases that define our motivations and tools; it is only then that we can free our selves from bias by keeping attention on it and regarding other points of view.

The point is not to get rid of our biases, but keep an eye on them, while considering other points of view.

What Progress in Philosophy? (Philosophy is like Bathing)

Some may feel that philosophy as a whole has not made any progress. Some are quick to point out how philosophers have been arguing over the same problems for centuries- seemingly making no progress.

Philosophy is like taking a bath or shower. No one would come to and ask "how much progress have you made in getting clean?".It seems like a silly question. You (hopefully) shower or bathe everyday, all the while knowing you will get dirty again. In this way, bathing is not an additive process like technology is. Technology is builds upon itself, while bathing is an iterative process- one of returning back to and repeating.

Philosophy is more like bathing than it is like technology. This distinction is what causes scientists and others ignorant to the true scope of philosophy to see it as something that makes no progress. But what they fail to see is that philosophy is like bathing, in that it is a iterative and not an additive process. We return again and again to philosophy to orient ourselves- to clean out thoughts and wipe away the inconsistencies and fallacies of our ways.

Philosophy cleans the picture of reality so we can understand on a grand level what it is we are doing in our day to day lives. Like bathing, philosophy we do often- not with he intent of never getting dirty again, but rather with the desire to see our nature devoid of all the dirt of the world- gaining a new perspective. Philosophy is a way to get this perspective. We must return to it and cleanse ourselves like we do in bathing.

Therefore, the progress made in philosophy is like the progress made in bathing- although it seems to go no where, it is actually vital toward our image of ourselves and our world. Philosophy, like bathing, is a process we repeat over and over, while technology is a process which builds upon itself. When science and technology make strides in development, philosophy and bathing are needed to cleanse the mind and body from the days work in the world- washing away inconsistencies and fallacies- allowing for progress to head in the right direction- rather than in unconsciously biased directions.      

Mindful Entertainment: Watching the Car Wreck of the Contemporary World Vicariously

Keeping up with current events and learning about the world’s affairs is like watching a car wreck. It’s a hideous thing to look at (war, poverty, injustice); but for some- like myself- they cant help but to look. The engrossing chaos of the contemporary world is like a vicarious roller coaster ride- the plot twists and contradictions provide the curling turns and the death-defying drops. But many are content to not give it the least bit of attention. They are happy to just know about what they feel directly affects them. Things like their gossip, finances, and the smorgasbord of mindless entertainment- designed to turn ones attention away from the current and into fantasy, all reinforce their choice of willful ignorance.

What may seem like a selfish decision to look away from the current world (especially to a naive me) is actually a form of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is best defined by an example- a psychological experiment to be more specific. In the 70s, researches were investigating the effects of punishment on dogs. They came up with the arguably sadistic but nonetheless important scientific decision to test the effects of continuous punishment. They set out to do this with dogs and electric shocks. The dogs were placed one at time on one of two adjacent metal platforms, from which they were confined to by bars. These metal platforms were connected to electrodes which would give a shock to whoever was in contact with them. The researches then continued to shock the dogs causing them to move from one platform to the other. Much to the dog’s dismay, both platforms were electrified- there was no escape. The dogs from then on stopped trying to move and laid on the platform to be repeatedly shocked. The dogs refused to move because they seemed to know it would not help them. But the incredible part comes when the researches removed the bars- allowing the dogs to move from off both platforms. One expects the dogs to leap from the platforms to safety, but the opposite happens. The dogs continue to stay and receive shocks although they are free to leave. The dogs had learned to be helpless- thus the term learned helplessness.

Confronted with the calamity of the modern world, most people are unable to figure a out a way to fix things. This is akin to the dogs not finding a way off the platforms. Like the dogs, they learn to take the shocks- which for them means numbing themselves to current events. Unfortunately, when the opportunity for a genuine plan to help the situation arises, these people will be blind to it- unable to seize the chance. Sad as that may be, it is expected and should not be thought of with contempt.

I say this because for myself- one who can’t help look away from the car wreck of current affairs- my gazing is passive. Instead of learning to look away with passionate disinterest, I have learned to look toward with dispassionate interest. That is, while others are passionately involved in the small scope of their immediate interests, I have become a detached observer. I’m not looking to find a way to help the situation with my gazing. I look because I am engaging vicariously or virtually with it. It’s as if I am finding entertainment in it. If this is the case, how is this any different from mindless entertainment. Is this the opposite? Is what I engage in a mindful form of entertainment?

Wait… the common conception of entertainment is that it must be mindless by definition. So what do I mean when I say gazing at the car wreck (vicariously) is a kind of mindful entertainment? It seems like I’m contradicting myself. But am I? Appearances may be deceiving- especially at first glance.

Can entertainment be mindful of current events rather then unconcerned with it? Let’s first ask a easier question. Does all entertainment have to be fantasy? This is obviously not the case. Reality TV (although much of it is scripted) shows that people can be entertained by the idea of watching something real as opposed to something made up. But what about the kind of topic entertained; does it have to be trivial instead of crucial? This I believe gets more to the hear of the matter. Most want to entertain shallows content, which does not affect them too much.

Can entertainment of crucial topics be engaging in a way as not to cause dread and helplessness but of hope and/or vicarious entertainment?  Is there a way to make entertainment about vital topics without shying away from their unpleasant aspects? I believe I have been doing this some how. I find mindfulness in all the entertainment I watch. I find myself following alternative media because I find it entertaining in the mindful way I am describing here. However I am not sure how exactly it happens for me.

I would like to envisage a time when people can trade mindless for mindful entertainment. I think it would help us by reversing the learned helplessness via a redirecting of attention toward the world- now with the guise of vicarious entertainment rather than frustration. The key difference is one can look at the worlds problems like a car wreck- telling yourself its OK to watch although there is no apparent fix. There is no reason to run from the world because it is chaotic when one can learn to become entertained by it and learn to experience it vicariously. This way, we can be at the forefront of the world’s issues and notice when we have a chance for a true fix, like jumping off an electrified platform when bars holding one in are removed.  

We should learn to watch the car wreck of the modern world with vicarious eyes looking for entertainment. Although at first it may seem disrespectful to find entertainment value in a car wreck, when all things are considered, it is a better option that not looking at all. If we learn to become detached observes, content to keep up with the unfolding of current events, we become more aware which eventually leads to change. Ignorance on the other hand will never lead to change.