In the wake of last month’s election, many harsh realities have been hitting us. Our work to guard and protect those vulnerable to emotional/mental meltdowns is even more cut out for us than ever, and we were already under-resourced and overwhelmed.
What many have studied along the lines of helping people in crisis and in psychiatric drug withdrawal will become increasingly relevant if/when 20 million Americans lose health insurance, or other services for poor and disabled people are defunded, cut or eliminated.
What is the timeline for this potential catastrophe? Republicans and the Trump administration are responding to public pressure to eliminate Obamacare on Inauguration Day. Those concerned with avoiding the social crisis of eliminating one plan without having another in place are hopeful that the administration will “repeal and delay” — that is, officially get rid of Obamacare to appease those demanding follow-through, but allow it to function for another two years while the Republicans create a new healthcare plan which is sure to offer less to those more vulnerable.
I do see this as a real threat of people eventually not having access to meds that they would be challenged to rapidly taper from or go off cold turkey, which can lead to extreme health problems and extreme symptoms of panic, anxiety, depression and psychosis — often reported to be far worse than the person ever experienced before taking psychiatric drugs.
A variety of scenarios of social and economic collapse have gone through many of our minds since Election Day. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies want to keep people on drugs, but what if there was no government subsidy for those who can’t pay? Perhaps they have enough political clout to ensure everyone’s meds will be covered, but this could be a conflict of interest with an administration that strikes many of us as erratic and severely unconcerned with protecting the vulnerable.
Imagine the lines at emergency rooms and free clinics if 5 million people suddenly needed to get emergency meds because they no longer had health insurance. This is a modest estimate, assuming that only 25% of low income people who have Obamacare are on meds. It would probably be closer to 15 million people, but either way, meds would no longer be the easiest and most accessible form of care. Right now drugs are the most convenient form of “support,” but what if they were a major hassle?
We can only guess what will happen and how imminent the threat is, but all of our reality-checking about corporate psychiatry and its unsustainability could easily be the sh*t hitting the fan if we achieve the type of social breakdown and revolution many are anticipating.
With an unpredictable and politically inexperienced president in charge, there are many scenarios (such as nuclear war or spending the nation’s social service money to further boost billionaire interests) that could quickly make us vulnerable to a healthcare system that no longer “functions” for the poor. It’s not functioning super well as it is, and our nation is already sleepwalking and complacent in a health crisis that is affecting everyone.
In anticipation of what may come, it might be useful to take preemptive actions — such as med hoarding — now, while people still have access to the temporary stability of some structures. This is important not because people want to stay on psych drugs for as long as possible (as pharmaceutical companies would like), but rather because going cold turkey off of most psych drugs is very dangerous, and can even lead to death, suicide or homicide.
While some people may be able to rapidly taper from certain drugs, such as Prozac which leaves the system slowly, most people are unable to safely withdraw from most psychiatric drugs without support, a plan, and a good amount of time for the body to adjust to each gradual reduction in dose. Due to the dangers of quick tapering, med hoarding might be a wise form of harm reduction, but would still be a band-aid without a more proactive plan and support for reduction in place.
Corporate pharmaceutical psychiatry was never sustainable, safe or a source of resilience for humanity, but especially not for those with chronic health concerns and others who cannot safely and quickly come off substances they may lose access to.
The idea of losing access to pharmaceuticals is probably hard for most people to even imagine — they are so ingrained in society as the medicine we are all entitled to. Yet there are other things we take for granted that could easily run out eventually, such as oil to drive vehicles. We know logically that it is possible and would create dramatic upheaval in both cases, but for now, we have seemingly unlimited access and don’t see any indication of our supply being cut, so we generally put these thoughts on the back burner if we consider them at all.
Efforts to support people choosing to safely withdraw from any dependency-creating pharmaceuticals (especially opiates, benzos and neuroleptics which are all extremely dangerous to go off quickly) are urgently needed now more than ever. Could this catastrophe be the wake-up call America needs to finally acknowledge that we require safer forms of medicine and support?
For those who’ve considered coming off psychiatric pharmaceuticals and have the resources and support to do so, I can only suggest that now might be a good time to stabilize off drugs. Of course the concept of “stability” is increasingly a joke that the collective is catching onto. Still, there are more and less resilient types of instability, or perhaps there is some level of choice as to whether we want organic, natural instability of our emotions (which I am calling stability here) versus a pseudo stability destined to come crashing down on us.
Some things that would be helpful to do now, to begin to rebuild (or arguably build for the first time) the kind of community resilience we will need in the coming days, months and years:
1. Learn to talk to each other again. This is so fundamental and so clear. For those who interact primarily by text and social media, the normal abilities needed to emotionally and physically self regulate in conversations with one another have declined dramatically. For various reasons including trauma triggers, overwhelm and privacy/surveillance concerns that suddenly seem more truly dangerous, some people are limiting or even eliminating use of social media, texting and email for important conversations, and that trend will likely continue.
People are in different places with this. Some are finding Facebook, Twitter and texting to be important movement and revolution building tools while others are feeling more and more isolated, spending upwards of 10 hours a day behind screens yet feeling less truly connected than ever before.
Take media/social media breaks. I personally deactivated my Facebook account a couple of months ago, realizing it was a serious addiction that was only killing my capacity and options for having satisfying relationships.
Learn new (old) ways to connect. The access we will have to safe and secure electronic communications in the future is unknown, and it would be wise to prepare by relearning basic things like how to have conversations, how to listen (a practice that is clearly declining; why listen to the person in front of me when I could be texting someone else?), how to make friends and meet new people, including and especially those very different from ourselves. There is an emphasis on learning/relearning to do these things in organic ways, outside of contractual relationships. In the new regime, which is clearly a new paradigm, we could be called to step even further outside of our comfort zones, both to protect targeted groups and to reach out for help ourselves.
2. Reach out. Reaching out is a hugely important skill right now. Being able to be honest and vulnerable (with safer people) and say when we are scared, sick, traumatized, broke, or being targeted by discrimination is essential, and there is a greater opportunity for it at this turning point. People are actively looking for the most vulnerable and for ways to stand by their sides in solidarity and protection.
3. Spread the word about needs for safe withdrawal support. My hope is that those vulnerable to psychiatry and to unsafe, forced withdrawal, will also be seen in the public eye as a group that needs solidarity and support — not only to keep meds accessible to those who cannot safely withdraw right now (which is sadly many), but to help build the longer term resilience for a world post-corporate patriarchy.
4. Study more sustainable options. Yes, on the surface, corporate psychiatry is continuing to grow and destroy our resilience out of proportion with what harm-reduction humanistic efforts can manage, nurture, contain, and attend to. The administration coming in has an agenda the opposite direction of many people, yet with collapse there is opportunity for growth. If the level of pharmaceutical destruction we’ve already experienced hasn’t been enough to convince policy and law makers that we need something better, a totalitarian takeover just may force us as individuals in our local communities to take matters into our own hands and build resilience efforts with one another and the earth.
Learning about nutrition and herbal medicine is crucial right now, as many of the herbs we need for our physical and emotional well being are likely growing freely within walking distance of where we reside.
Medicine that reconnects rather than disenfranchises takes some time to build a relationship with. There is a learning curve here, because medicine itself is a learning process. This can feel like just another burden we don’t have time or energy to deal with or to delve into deeply, but when we can step towards it in any tiny way, we can count ourselves among the privileged. There is also a lot of free and good information online, and in many areas, local herbalists to befriend and learn from.
Other ideas on a practical level would be to go out to support groups, find ways to see your friends and neighbors in person and reconnect with non-local friends and family in ways that feel most real and resilient to you (hint: it may be more than a Facebook like). Retreating into solitude when overwhelmed is also a completely valid response at times like this, however. In fact, all responses and strategies are valid.
We can only hope that the rest of the world will soon catch up with us crazy folk who’ve known all along that consensus reality and corporate medicine with financial ties to insurance companies and politicians were fragile at best.