Last updated on March 12, 2019
Ben sessa and I
Drugs are central to my life. Just like you, I was born to a drugged mother, injected minutes after birth and repeatedly dosed throughout my childhood.
My patients are simply self-medicating. And who can blame them? Their medicines (heroin, crack and alcohol) work better than mine (Prozac) at blunting life’s sharp edges
Dr Ben Sessa
Drugs help me get up and go to work, sustain me throughout the day and relax me in the evenings. I am a regular consumer of legal highs. Almost all of us are.
I work with children in a secure custodial setting, most of whom have used drugs before incarceration to have fun. I also work in an adult addictions service with people whose drug use is mistaken for the cause of their problems. It is not. Addiction is not about drugs. Rather, drugs slot neatly into a pre-drug maladaptive profile of failed opportunities and chronic exclusion of hope.
My patients are simply self-medicating. And who can blame them? Their medicines (heroin, crack and alcohol) work better than mine (Prozac) at blunting life’s sharp edges. Nevertheless, I give them my drugs and help them off theirs. But in my clinical experience no drugs in isolation will eradicate mental disorder. Most psychiatric prescribing merely papers over the cracks of patients’ symptoms with maintenance therapies that do not cure them. The core of their distress (childhood trauma, social exclusion, lack of education and opportunities) is hard and expensive to resolve. Prozac is cheaper and faster.
And I also work for the family law courts, assessing parents and children whose prospects are judged by court decisions based on their past or potential future drug use. But drug use and misuse are different. Most people take most drugs, most of the time relatively benignly. Drug misuse and addiction is not the drugs’ fault. Simply prohibiting drugs and criminalising users is a grossly simplistic and dangerous folly. Our system for classifying drugs is unscientific, socially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. Our drug laws increase the harms, deaths, associated crime and even the usage of drugs. There is more scientific validity for homeopathy than prohibition. The arbitrary assignment of substances into classes A, B and C has no pharmacological validity, is patronising, dangerous and sends the wrong public health message. Drugs don’t kill people. Prohibition does.
Yet our drug laws have persisted, unaudited and unaltered for 50 years despite clear evidence of their lack of efficacy. Why? This is a complex question that often leads towards unhelpful conspiracy theories. In wishing to avoid this, I can only assume successive governments sustain the destructive policy with my best interests at heart. It’s enough to turn one to drugs.
Ben is a medical doctor providing private psychiatric consultation through Mandala Therapy Limited Ben is a published medical and fiction author Ben carries out psychopharmacology research with psychedelic medicines Ben is researching MDMA Therapy for mental disorders Ben publishes in the academic and medical press Ben present regularly in multi-media platforms Ben carries out medico-Legal family law expert witness work Ben is co-founder and chair of the Breaking Convention conference.