Chemicals for the Mind: Psychopharmacology and Human Consciousness

Chemicals for the Mind: Psychopharmacology and Human Consciousness

Chemicals for the Mind: Psychopharmacology and Human Consciousness

Chemicals for the Mind: Psychopharmacology and Human Consciousness

Synopsis

Keen provides a critical appraisal of psychopharmacology, including its philosophical assumptions, its professional practice, and its practical results. Its popularity in our culture encourages a displacement of attention from our problems in the world to chemicals in our brains. Based on the objectifications of science, Keen asserts this practice amounts to neglect and, finally, violence.

Excerpt

For the past several years, I have been fascinated by the topic of psychopharmacology--the practice of treating individuals' feelings, those that make them ill (can they be called ill-feelings?), with pills containing chemicals that apparently change certain events in the brain. I have found that not many people outside professional circles want to discuss psychopharmacology. I am not sure why.

Some do not want to talk about psychopharmacology because they are currently experiencing it, either under the care of a physician or a bartender, and in either case they seem to know what they need to know--what the chemical does for them, or to them, personally. Perhaps others recognize a certain uncomfortable similarity between psychopharmacological treatment and simply imbibing mind-altering chemicals.

It is indeed disquieting to let the complexities of alcoholism and the drug war complicate a convenient understanding that Prozac is "treatment" and marijuana is "crime." I appreciate this discomfort, because being uncomfortable suggests a marginal awareness that something is awry, or perhaps even that the root question facing modern individuals, in a psychopharmacologically incontinent society like our own, is a moral question. I have come to believe that the moral dimension of the science of psychopharmacology is what makes me, and perhaps most people, uncomfortable. Furthermore, it has only slowly dawned on me that the moral issues in psychopharmacology are urgent. From some angles, psychopharmacology is quite a questionable enterprise, from others quite humane, and from yet others quite inevitable. I see it in all three ways. I speak of the morally questionable aspects and the morally humane aspects, but it is the inevitable aspects that should most urgently command attention. Despite the discomforts I noted with the topic, there is a relentless energy in the advancement of this science and this practice, as if it satisfied more than medical motives. The energy is perhaps itself scientific, but also perhaps personal to some people, corporate to some corporations, professional to some professions, and cultural to some aspects of our culture.

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