A recent conversation with Vikramjit Gill, a doctor who has been helpful to at least one client of mine, reveals the hair-trigger exhilaration of psychiatry for any and all all conceivable drug “solutions” to human problems in thinking, feeling and behaving.
I don’t recall how the subject came up, but Dr. Gill was enormously impressed, perhaps enchanted, by some clinical data he had recently seen or heard of indicating that Ketamine might be a very effective treatment for depression. Ketamine has been around since the heyday of the 60s and 70s drug culture. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration it has been known on the street as “Special K’, “K”, “Cat Valium” and “Kit Cat”. It has a reputation for producing mystical, euphoric or transcendent experiences glowingly described as the “K-hole” or “God”.
In case this sounds eerily familiar, it certainly is. The greatest push in the history of Western culture for drugs as catalysts of (or a materialistic substitute for) spiritual enlightenment was also a psychiatric innovation: LSD. That adventure did not end well, but many people never knew or don’t remember the details. Dr. Gill is apparently too young. (Or, maybe he’s just a psychiatrist.)
I studied the history of LSD for a thesis at Northwestern University. The title of my thesis was, “Slouching Towards Haight-Ashbury To Be Born: Secret Psychedelic Nation In The Fifties”. A nickel synopsis might be that, while I personally experienced the drug culture in my youth as a rebellion and part of a movement boiling up from the streets, in actual fact it was a manipulation that trickled down from the highest, most elite social and professional circles in the West. It was a plan to cure the human condition, to catalyze a higher evolution, to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth.
In light of Dr. Gill’s evident enchantment with this newest Ketamine version of psychiatric hubris, I intend to serialize my thesis over a number of separate articles on this blog. It’s a good story, it’s quintessentially American, and it’s true. As I once wrote, we have spent huge amounts of money searching for drugs to heal our souls, and found only drugs that failed to heal the effects of our earlier drugs. Ketamine continues in the fruitless and destructive tradition of psychiatric slavery.