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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words


Raw Dogging Reality

4 min read

This is a story about taking the edge off...

Mulled cider

There's a popular meme which asks what's classy if you're rich, but trashy if you're poor. Among the answers is daytime drinking. Certainly, what gets classed as alcoholism for poor people, is just considered taking the edge off after a long hard day, for the wealthy.

Drinking and the United Kingdom go hand-in-hand. The weather is pretty atrocious for the majority of the year, and not in a Skandinavian way, with pretty snow and ice, but instead in a miserable grey-skied, drizzly rain kind of way. The UK doesn't get cosy during winter time, it just gets depressing. While the UK has a bad - but deserved - reputation for being the home of larger lout football hooligans, and horrendous rates of alcoholism, is it any wonder, considering the dreadful weather?

If we examine humanity's need for intoxication, we can see that it's well correlated with dreadful weather. The longer and more miserable the winter, the more people drink.

Looking at wider habits of intoxication, we can see that life is unbearable, for the majority of us, without something to take the edge off.

Why then do we fetishise brutal sobriety?

There's noting admirable about being teetotal. I've been teetotal for a month and a half, and I doesn't make me morally superior. I'm not a better person, just because I'm not imbibing alcohol. The only reason not to drink is pure vanity: that I'm dieting, and alcohol was contributing the vast majority of calories which I was consuming.

Without alcohol, I'm struggling. Without alcohol, I'm unstable and finding it almost impossible to plod along at snail's pace, bored out of my mind. I'm finding it impossible to get through the day: it's unbearably horrible.

I do not recommend experiencing raw unfiltered reality. It's awful.

Of course, nobody does experience raw unfiltered reality. Everyone drinks. Everyone smokes. Everyone pushes their buttons in some artificial way or another. Everyone takes medications. Everyone finds a way to artificially alter their brain.

I suppose that when I said we don't have the Scandinavian kind of cosiness, with warm sweaters, open fires, great central heating, insulated houses and snow outside, we do have a British kind of cosiness: country pubs, with lots of British beer. The Britons have always been big consumers of beer, and never moreso than during the dark, cold winter months. The British adapt to their miserable British winter weather, by retreating to the pub, and drinking more.

The idea that we should be able to maintain a certain constant level, in all areas of life, year-round, is complete insanity. Of course we need to sleep more when the days are shorter, the nights are longer, and it's colder. Of course, we need to be less active in the winter. Of course, we can't work the same hours. Of course, we can't go outside as much. Of course, we're going to eat and drink more. The seasons are not constant - there is summer and winter - and neither can we, as biological creatures, be constant either.

Doing a very extreme diet at the same time as being teetotal, coinciding with the clocks going back, the nights getting longer and the weather getting colder: this is something which is awful to experience, raw and unfiltered. I'm tired, hungry, cold, and I'm hit with the full force of the horrendous anxiety which human existence induces. This world is fucking shit, to experience without anything to take the edge off.

While the whole world is drinking alcohol, smoking, taking tons of pills, drinking tea, coffee, energy drinks, eating super sugary foods, upregulating themselves with gym workouts and suchlike, and bombarding themselves with a ton of dopamine-inducing entertainment - film, TV, video games, news media, social media, internet, pornography - I'm struggling along, experiencing raw reality, which is truly terrible. Do not recommend. Stay with your trusty pills - you need them!

The phrase "raw dogging reality" is stolen from a Tweet I saw, but it very aptly sums up the horribleness of human existence, without pills, booze, drugs, cigarettes or any of the other vices which make life liveable.




Dark Thoughts

4 min read

This is a story about storm clouds...

Rain on glass

I often assume that after a lengthy period without abusing drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances, I'll reap some rewards. I tend to think that a period clean and sober will bring good health, and in turn, that life will improve. It's certainly true that drugs have brought nothing but chaos and turmoil into my life, making it completely unmanageable, as my mental health problems are exacerbated. Eliminating most psychoactive substances has certainly turned my life into something which looks - to the outside observer - to be stable, productive, functional and indeed, at times quite enviable. To all intents and purposes, I look, smell, sound and act like a normal member of mainstream society.

Internally, there's nothing to help me cope with the intrusive thoughts; the traumatic flashbacks.

In the comfort of my own home, as I've already written about, I yell out, grimace and flinch, as I'm assaulted by all kinds of post-traumatic flashbacks. I have horrible nightmares. I suffer lengthy periods of skin-crawling agonising anxiety, where the hands of the clock are barely moving; it lasts for an eternity.

There are no rewards for being clean and sober; only suffering.

It's unthinkable, lifting the lid when there's so much trauma. It's insanity to have it all hitting me like a freight train, every single second of every single day, even when I'm asleep.

I like to think that my brain is mending itself. I like to think that by reliving those traumas, my brain is kind of re-organising itself and exorcising stuff. I allow myself to yell out, flinch and grimace, because it seems better to let it out than to fight it and attempt to suppress it.

Thinking about it, there's mountains of stuff. There's an unimaginable amount of stuff.

The memories - the bad memories - come thick and fast, intruding into whatever I'm doing, unless I'm really working hard; really concentrating on something. I have so few distractions that there's plenty of time for my brain to throw a relentless torrent of terrible, dreadful, awful traumatic memories at me, which are so bad that they're physically painful and cause me to cry out in shock.

I don't think I'd have been able to cope without medication, but now I've lost that crutch, it feels like I stored up years worth of terrible stuff without dealing with it properly. Now it's all hitting me, seemingly all at once.

I'm unusual, in that I'm one of the least psychoactively altered people - I don't have any tea, coffee, coca-cola, fizzy drinks, nicotine, cannabis, alcohol or medication. I don't eat, drink, swallow, smoke, inject, snort or otherwise ingest anything mind-altering. That's very unusual. To give you an example, out of hundreds of people I work with, I'm the only one who doesn't drink tea, coffee or other caffeinated beverages, and my teetotaling makes me even more unusual.

As a friend said to me, quoting a popular Tweet: I'm raw-dogging reality.

It's really brutal. It's really awful. I don't recommend it at all. It's not nice. In fact, it's thoroughly unpleasant and intolerable. Don't do it. It's not worth it. It's not healthy, it's hell.

Why am I doing it then?

I have the unshakeable belief that I can achieve mood stability by avoiding all mind-altering substances, including the things we don't usually bother to think about, like tea and coffee. I feel a lot more stable - mentally - having given up everything. I'm trying to regulate my mood by doing other things. I'm hoping that I develop some healthy habits.

Certainly, after a couple of weeks teetotal, I have a lot more energy and enthusiasm; I'm a lot more active; I sleep better. These are not things to be sniffed at. Alcohol and depression combined to create a very sedentary lifestyle, which was horrifically damaging to my health. I was drinking myself to death, even though I appeared very functional and otherwise doing very well in life.

So, I'm suffering the dark, horrible invasive thoughts, driven to find out whether my brain will eventually rid itself of the toxins and settle down. Certainly, there are health benefits, but I am suffering a great deal.




Misuse of Drugs

21 min read

This is a story about fit for purpose...

Prescription medications

Here are a range of prescription medications. Three of them are illegal to possess without a prescription under the Misuse of Drugs Act, because they are scheduled as "class B" and "class C", respectively carrying a 5 year prison sentence, a 2 year prison sentence and an unlimited fine.

So, 3/5ths of the medicines pictured here could see me locked up for somewhere between 2 and 5 years, if I didn't have a prescription.

The medication at the top of the picture is lamotrigine, which treats bipolar depression, as well as epilepsy. It has no abuse potential, but it does carry a high risk of causing a fatal skin rash.

The medication in the middle of the picture is bupropion, which treats addiction to nicotine. It has no abuse potential, but it also carries a high risk of causing seizures, which might be fatal.

The medication in the bottom-left of the picture is pregabalin, which treats neuropathic pain. It is addictive and can be abused. Pregabalin is a "class C" controlled substance, and anybody caught in possession without a prescription, will receive 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

The medication in the top-right of the picture is methlyphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin®, which treats Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD). It is addictive and can be abused. Methlyphenidate is a "class B" controlled substance, and anybody caught in possession without a prescription will be imprisoned for 5 years and receive an unlimited fine.

The medication in the bottom-right of the picture is zopiclone, which treats insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is addictive and can be abused. Zopiclone is a "class C" controlled substance, and anybody caught in possession without a prescription, will receive 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

So, if I didn't have a prescription for all the medications on this table, I could be facing 9 years in prison and an unlimited fine, should the judge decide that my sentences should run consecutively, not concurrently, due to the gravity of my crime.

Yet, millions of UK citizens receive the medicinal benefits of pregabalin, methylphenidate and zopiclone, and the quality of their lives is greatly improved. These tablets were developed as medicines by pharmaceutical companies, to treat medical problems. Substantial empirical evidence was gathered in many controlled trials, to prove that these medicines were safe and effective at treating the medical problems they have been licensed for.

Indeed, these medicines have unexpected benefits beyond the purpose they were licensed for. Lamotrigine improves sleep quality. Bupropion is a fast-acting non-drowsy antidepressant, which also increase libido and enjoyment of sex. Pregabalin reduces anxiety and aids sleep. Methylphenidate improves concentration, allowing students to study harder and for longer periods. Zopiclone can prophylactically prevent psychosis and mania, by preventing sleep deprivation.

It is very hard to argue that the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Psychoactive Substances Act are successful laws, because the evidence shows that the use of mind-altering substances remains entirely unaltered by legislation which seeks to discourage that behaviour, and harshly penalises those who break the law.

If I approached my GP and asked for zopiclone to help me sleep, methylphenidate to help me concentrate at work, pregabalin (or any benzodiazepine) to treat my anxiety and zopiclone to treat my depression, they would flatly refuse all my requests.

My GP would tell me that zopiclone is too addictive, despite my insomnia ruining my life. My GP would tell me that methyphenidate is too addictive, despite my inability to concentrate impairing my ability to be productive at work. My GP would tell me that pregabalin is not licensed to treat anxiety, and it's too addictive, despite my poor quality of life due to anxiety. My GP would tell me that benzodiazepines are too addictive, despite my life-ruining anxiety. My GP would tell me that bupropion is not licensed to treat depression.

Instead, I would be offered sertraline, which would allegedly treat my depression and reduce my anxiety. Sertraline is very slow to take effect and it has an emotionally-blunting effect, as well as affecting sex drive and ability to orgasm. Sertraline is not an effective treatment for anxiety. Sertraline is not an effective sleep aid. Anybody who has ever tried to quit sertraline will tell you that it is very addictive and the withdrawal side effects are intolerable.

In short, doctors would offer me nothing.

In short, doctors would tell me to go away, even though their medicine cabinets are stuffed full of medicines which have been extensively proven to treat the ailments which ruin my quality of life. The medications exist, but I would be denied a prescription to access those medications.

This much like a man who is dying from a bacterial infection being told that he's not allowed any penicillin, because a small number of people have a penicillin allergy.

Then, there are medications such as diacetylmorphine and ketamine, which are considered essential medicines. Diacetylmorphine, more commonly known as heroin, is scheduled as "class A" which carries a 7 year prison term and an unlimited fine, if possessed without a prescription.

How can we have a Misuse of Drugs Act which puts diacetylmorphine - a medicine routinely prescribed - into the same category as crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is fiendishly addictive and has zero medicinal use. Crack cocaine is so addictive, that it might even be considered to be "instantly addictive" and the vast majority of its users commit acquisitive crimes - muggings, thefts, burglaries - to raise money to pay for their drug addiction. Addiction is a medical condition, not a crime.

How can we have a Misuse of Drugs Act which puts mushrooms into the same category as crack cocaine? In fact the law states that it's magic mushrooms which are a "class A" controlled substance, which implies that the government believes in magic. Is that not utterly terrifying? Is it not utterly terrifying that our lawmakers are so mentally impaired that they would make specific reference in law to a certain type of mushroom which is "magic". Like, are you for real? We actually have laws criminalising magic, in the 21st century.

What would be a fitting punishment for anybody possessing a "magic" mushroom? Perhaps they should be made to climb a beanstalk grown from "magic" beans. Perhaps they should be lashed to a dunking seat and immersed underwater until they drown. Perhaps they should be burnt at the stake. These are the punishments that are most ususal for involvement in "magic".

We also know that behaviours such as sex and gambling can be addictive, but nobody imagines that gambling addicts inject decks of playing cards into their veins. In fact, gambling is widely permitted, advertised and promoted throughout society, despite its addiction potential. We are allowed to have sex, even though there is a risk of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases, and there is addiction potential.

Terrifyingly, the government has now passed an Act of Parliament which criminalises:

Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with others

Obviously, eating a big meal might cause you to feel drowsy. Being tired will make you drowsy and less alert. Being tired will affect your mood and make you more 'snappy' with others. It seems pretty obvious that children are a thing that causes drowsiness, changes in alertness, mood and empathy with others. Many mothers get post-natal depression (mood change) and many parents feel a great deal of empathy towards their children. Is the production of children going to carry the 7 year prison sentence, as the law states?

The law helpfully tells us that:

Food [doesn't] count as psychoactive substances.

But, hang on a second... aren't mushrooms food? If I'm a mushroom producer or supplier, am I exempt from the 7 year jail sentence?

Let us imagine that I cross-breed a "magic" mushroom with a regular mushroom, not thought of as "magic" by government lawmakers, I must surely be able to produce a non-magic mushroom, which I can supply as food, even though it might cause hallucinations, changes in perception of time and space and mood. Clearly if I used gene editing, I could produce a mushroom that was not "magic" at all - no witchcraft or wizardry necessary - and this could be bought and sold in the supermarkets as food.

Fundamentally, the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Psychoactive Substances Act are flawed pieces of legislation, which are not protecting citizens of the United Kingdom, reducing crime, reducing antisocial behaviour, saving lives or reducing the burden on public services. In fact, it is categorically clear that the UK's approach to mind-altering substances is a gigantic waste of money, which is also ruining countless lives, by criminalising people with medical conditions.

The fact that we have the word "magic" in our statute books, criminalising mushrooms that are alleged to have "magical" properties, in the 21st century, is quite absurdly ridiculous. The fact that we have put "magic" mushrooms, diacetylmorpine and crack cocaine into the same "class A" schedule, carrying the harshest punishments. Diacetylmorhine is an essential medicine, administed every day by up to 130,000 doctors and countless nurses. Picking "magic" mushrooms to share with my friends is punishable by life imprisonment.

I can understand that crack cocaine is an instantly addictive drug that drives most of its users to commit a very great deal of crime, because they are suffering from an illness. Therefore those who supply crack cocaine are committing a terrible crime, because crack cocaine exists for no other purpose than its abuse, and it's abuse is so devastating that it ruins the life of the sick person and creates very many victims of crime. I can understand why supply of crack cocaine is punishable by life imprisonment.

I cannot understand that "magic" mushrooms, which are not addictive, and its users commit no antisocial nuisance nor cause any burden on the state, and are an incredibly safe thing to eat with no fatalities attributed to their consumption, are seen as the same as crack cocaine in the eyes of the law. Those who supply magic mushrooms are no more guilty than a person who obtains a crate of beer, with which to share with their friends. 

The antisocial behaviour of people intoxicated by alcohol, the addictiveness of alcohol and its adverse health effects, makes suppliers and producers of alcohol culpable for a very serious crime, which deserves harsh punishment, if we follow the logic applied to other mind-altering substances.

To sell packs of cigarettes is possession with intent to supply an addictive harmful substance. The health damage caused by cigarette smoking and the antisocial nature of it, because of the harm caused to passive smokers by second-hand smoke, as well as the unpleasant smell of cigarette smoke, which also harms items of clothing and other property. Cigarette smoking places considerable burden on the state, who must invest significant sums of money into smoking cessation treatments, smoking prevention programs and treat the many smoking-related diseases. Smoking-related diseases shorten lives, cause early death and reduce the productive capacity of those who suffer from cigarette addiction. Cigarettes have a high economic cost to society. Suppliers and producers of cigarettes, cigars and loose tobacco are culpable for a very serious crime, which deserves harsh punishment.

When the esteemed neuropsychopharmacologist Professor David Nutt was adviser to the government on its drug policy, he suggested - based on overwhelming empirical evidence - reclassifying all drugs based upon the health risks they posed, the harms they cause to society, and the economic cost of their use and abuse. He was forced to resign. Drugs are a politcal pawn and the government has no interest in the wellbeing of its citizens, with respect to drug use.

We only need to look at Portugal, which took a scientific data-driven approach to its drug policy and has achieved:

  • 60% increase in uptake of addiction treatment programs
  • 90% drop in the rate of drug-injection related HIV infection
  • 45% decrease in the murder rate
  • Drug-related deaths dropped to 3 per million (in comparison to the EU average of 17.3 per million)

The most [un]surprising thing of all is that drug use remained the same. People like to take drugs. LOTS of people like to take drugs. Alterations to the law do not affect people's desire to take drugs. Drug laws are not a disincentive to drug taking, because drug taking has been a feature of human life since pre-historic times. People want to take drugs, hence why alcohol, cigarette and coffee consumption is ubiquitous and legal.

2.5 million Xanax tablets were purchased on the black market in the UK. At least half a million people in the UK are using MDMA (ecstasy) on regularly, and on a single weekend, a million tablets could be consumed. Almost one million UK citizens are using powder cocaine, and most of them are affluent professionals.

What we can learn from Portugal is that punitive drug laws have no affect on citizen's behaviour. The criminalisation and harsh punishments are not a disincentive to illicit drug purchase and consumption.

Legislation to criminalise the sale of alcohol - prohibition - was tried in the USA from 1920 to 1933, and it was an abysmal failure. Industrial alcohol was deliberately made extremely poisonous in 1927, causing innumerable deaths and making people blind. But people drank it anyway, getting literally "blind drunk". Moonshine was responsible for vast numbers of speakeasy customers being poisoned: 33 people in Manhattan, NY died in just three days, for example.

We can see from all historical evidence, worldwide, that every culture has used mind-altering substances extensively. Coca leaf chewing is common in South America. Tobacco smoking and chewing originated in North America. Betel nuts and areca leaves are chewed all over Asia. Khat leaves are chewed in Africa. Tea leaves a brewed in hot water in China and India. Coffee beans are roasted, ground and brewed in South America. Cannabis has been drunk as Bhang in India for more than 3,000 years, and the Egyptians were smoking cannabis 3,600 years ago. Opium was being consumed 5,400 years ago, by the Mesopotamians. Alcohol wins the top prize though, because it's been brewed for at least 13,000 years - since the goddam stone age.

The invention of distillation apparatus is a relatively recent phenomenon, but we should accept that human desire for intoxicating alcoholic beverages has been unwavering since the discovery of the fermentation process, and the invention of brewing methods. The body of archeological evidence overwhelmingly proves that beer and wine were present in human lives, continuously. Mass production of cheap distilled spirits pose new challenges, but we must remember that society does not adapt to scientific and technological advances with sufficient speed to avoid difficult periods of re-adjustment.

The isolation of psychoactive molecules responsible for psychoactive effects, and the laboratory synthesis of those naturally occurring compounds, has resulted in highly refined and pure chemicals. The investment in high-volume chemical production for industrial and agricultural uses, makes the precursor ingredients for synthesised compounds extremely cheap, and therefore, drug supply can inexpensively meet drug demand, through mass-production. The very poorest people in the world are often able to afford to buy very potent and pure drugs.

In 1804 Friedrich Sertürner isolated the morphine molecule from opium. In 1804 the world's population was 1 billion and the average global income was $3 a day (adjusted for inflation). Today, 3.4 billion people live on approximately $3 a day, which means that there are 340% more people living in poverty on an increasingly overcrowded planet.

We know from animal studies that stress and overcrowding affects behaviour adversely - "the behavioural sink" - and experiments have produced compelling evidence. Animals whose living conditions are intolerable, will prefer water laced with alcohol, cocaine, heroin and other addictive drugs. When the experiment is repeated with better living conditions, such as having other animals to socialise and have sex with, more comfortable bedding, exercise wheels and toys to interact with, then the rats prefer to drink the water without any mind-altering substances.

Findings from experiments with overcrowding in rat colonies found the following disturbing results:

Many female rats were unable to carry pregnancy to full term or to survive delivery of their litters if they did. An even greater number, after successfully giving birth, fell short in their maternal functions. Among the males the behavior disturbances ranged from sexual deviation to cannibalism and from frenetic overactivity to a pathological withdrawal from which individuals would emerge to eat, drink and move about only when other members of the community were asleep.

The animals would crowd together in greatest number in one of the four interconnecting pens in which the colony was maintained. As many as 60 of the 80 rats in each experimental population would assemble in one pen during periods of feeding. Individual rats would rarely eat except in the company of other rats. As a result extreme population densities developed in the pen adopted for eating, leaving the others with sparse populations.

Infant mortality ran as high as 96 percent among the most disoriented groups in the population.

Translated into human terms, we see that the majority of the world's population live in overcrowded cities. We see neglected and abused children taken into foster care. We see high infant mortality rates in the developing world. We see sexual deviancy. We see widespread manic-depressive symptoms and other psychiatric illnesses. We see men living lives of quiet, desperate isolation, withdrawn from the world and spending most of their time in their bedrooms, emerging only to grab a microwave pizza or use the toilet.

One must remember that in the rat overcrowding experiments, there were no drugs or alcohol. The behaviour of the rats was a spontaneous response to their living conditions.

Thus, we must conclude that the problems we see in society are not caused by drugs and alcohol, but the abuse of drugs and alcohol is caused by intolerable living conditions.

In the west, the social problems we have are due to industrialisation and mass-production, which required high-density housing in close proximity to the factories, mills, textile manufacturers and steel works. The social problems were compounded by the service industries building tall office blocks in the business districts of major metropolitan areas. Property developers built high-rise housing blocks in cities which were already densely populated.

Manhatten had a population of 60,000 people in 1800. Today it has a population of 1.7 million people who each earn $378,000 per annum, on average.

Hong Kong Island had a population of about 3,000 people in 1842. Today it has 1.3 million people and a 2-bedroom city centre apartment would cost about $2 million to buy.

Those are the affluent places.

In the developing world, the social problems are due to the purchasing power of "soft" currencies. Only the US dollar, Japanese yen, European euro, Swiss franc, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar and British pound, are considered to be "hard" currencies.

Developing world nations need to build factories, mills, mines, railways, ports, power stations, which can only be paid for in hard currency, along with hospital and a university, fully equipped, staffed. The university needs a library full of books. Almost everthing has to be imported, and the suppliers want to be paid in hard currency.

The developing world nations take out loans from the World Bank, issued in hard currency to buy what they need. The crop harvest, manufactured products and natural resources are exported to buyers who pay with soft currency. Labour is also sold using soft currency .

$1 can purchase 8.3 minutes of labour in the USA. $1 can purchase 36 hours of labour in Ethiopia. The poorest and hungriest Ethiopians get paid 10 Ethiopian birr for 12 hours labour. A day's wage is the same as the cost of the day's food.

$1 is exchanged for 30 Ethiopian birr. The dollar seller can pay 3 Ethiopians their daily wage, after they complete 12 hours labour. The Ethiopian birr seller can purchase $1 of specialist goods, specialist services, or hire a highly-qualified and experienced expert, from the richest nations. $1 could purchase 1 minute of time from a prospecting geologist to survey Ethiopia's stone, ores, minerals, metals and gemstones. When the data is gathered, Ethiopia can then calculate the capital expenditure to purchase land, build processing facilities, buy equipment, and build supply infrastructure. Then they consider the cost the cost of paying for supply chain services. They calculate how soon they can be ready to start exporting. They calculate a sustainable export capacity and work out the anticipated lead time from initial purchase order, legally binding supply contract, agreed.  The operating costs are deducted from the expected income from the exports. It's pretty easy maths:

(Capital expenditure + operational costs + transport costs) - (average raw material market price x quantity of raw material available)

This equation gives three numbers,

1. How much money do we need spend before we see a single dollar

2. How much money will be earned until all the natural resource is gone

3. Proft (if any)

Wheat to make flour with is $0.46 in the US commodities exchange. Coffee beans are $0.94/kg. Orange juice is $1.17/litre. Cotton is $0.71/kg. Raw sugar from sugar cane has by far the lowest market price, of $0.13/kg.

Processing makes little difference: Alcohol made from cane sugar trades at $1.34/litre and refined white sugar trades at $348.

So we can forget growing crops. The US and EU subsidise their farmers by purchasing their harvest, then dumping it in huge silos, or otherwise paying farmers a subsidy for not growing their crop, which is greater than the amount the farmer could expect to earn by selling the harvest. That's economic warfare by the wealthy west on the impoverished developing world nations. The game is rigged.

Then stone, ores, metal, precious metal and gemstones are worth considering.

Iron ore trades at $89/kg. If you invested in heavy machinery and a processing plant: Copper trades at £3/lb, Aluminium at $1/lb. Nickel at $6/lb and Zinc is at $1/kg.

This is because $1 can purchase at least 1kg of flour, which will feed a mother and child for a day. The hungriest poorest people will exchange 12 hours labour . Therefore $1 buys 87 times more labour in the poorest parts of the developing world, than it does in the USA. So $1 is offered in exchange for enough local currency to buy 1kg of flour. It costs 30 Ethiopian birr to buy 1kg of flour,

The densest population on the planet is Tondo - a district in Manila - where you are never more than 2 metres away from another person. I'm 1.83 metres tall, so if I lay down to sleep, I would have 17 centimetres between me and the nearest person That's disturbing.

The developing world population has increased dramatically in the last 200 years, which is a lot of hungry mouths to feed, in countries which might not have clean drinking water, medicine, sanitation systems, and people live with a lot of hunger. See below:

World pop growth

Can you see the trend? Poor nations are getting more populated, which drives down the value of their labour drives down the value of the crops they produce, and drives down the price of the the other commodities they can produce. In a system of global free-market capitalism: A hungry person will work harder for longer, than a well-fed one. A person who lives in a country with high infant mortality rates will have more children that a person with great well-equipped hospitals and doctors, in every city.

It's ludicrous to be criminalising things which would never exist if we paid more for our edible crops. For example, 1kg of opium resin is worth $2,506 if you buy it wholesale directly from the farmers in Afghanistan. That heroin has a market value of $6,600 in the USA.

The drug problem is the inevitable conclusion of exploiting the developing world's labour, crops and raw materials.

I should really have written this as a series of blog posts, but I might is this in a non-fiction book I plan to write if I can convince somebody I like to co-author it with me. Or at least get a literary agent to find me a publisher and give me an editor.

Side note: I started writing this on Saturday and it's now Monday (well, Tuesday, technically) and I've hardly slept. I must publish this now, and proof-read and edit tomorrow.

I hope you find these 4,000 words entertaining.




Managing Mania

6 min read

This is a story about normalising...

Mood swings

There is some debate about what type of bipolar disorder I suffer from. I've always thought that I had the milder type 2 variety, because my 'high' periods had never caused me any problems at work or at home, but perhaps it's only because I've been fortunate enough to enjoy wealth and privilege that I've gotten away without suffering dire consequences. In fact, my 'high' periods have always produced far more wealth than my stable periods, reinforcing the idea that I don't have a very severe mental illness at all.

The world around us produces bipolarity.

Most of the time, there's nothing to do at our boring bullshit jobs. Most of the time we're in neutral gear coasting along. Most of the time our lives are filled with bland monotony.

We need to cram for exams. We need to shine in job interviews. We need to dazzle our new work colleagues. We need to work crazy hours to finish projects in time for deadlines. We need to dedicate ourselves to solving very hard problems, by thinking about them intensely without getting distracted. We need to pursue our love interests obsessively. We need to practice, practice, practice - to the exclusion of everything else - if we want to get good at a particular skill or sport.

We reward every bipolar aspect of somebody's personality. We celebrate bipolarity.

Who cares if you're depressed all summer, so long as you got through your final exams? Who cares if writing your dissertation or thesis nearly killed you, so long as you finished it on time? Who cares if your project burnt you out as long as the deadline was met? Who cares that nearly every aspect of modern life wrings more out of you than you can healthily give, so long as you're winning?

We are driven to use substances which confer a competitive advantage. Alcohol will tranquillise your jangled nerves. Caffeine and nicotine will pep you up. Who cares that there's a price to be paid for using these uppers and downers? Society will handsomely reward you for skipping sleep and using every substance available to you, at the expense of your health.

I'm a lifelong sufferer of social jetlag. To work 9 to 5 hours in an office is torturous because my body clock is not designed to run to that schedule. I'm genetically programmed differently from all those obedient little drones who find it easy to rise and shine. My DNA is completely different from that of an early bird. We're very different animals.

I'm a lifelong sufferer of interminable insufferable excruciatingly painful boredom. Waiting for something interesting to happen at work and for things to get exciting has consumed 95% of my wasted fucking time, spent looking busy at my desk.

Once all the waste-of-space dead-wood losers have finished having endless meetings and not making any decisions, when the project deadlines loom large, finally I have my moment to shine. I can't understand why anybody would have me - a miserable depressed cynic who turns up insultingly late every day - around in the office ruining morale, except that I'm pretty handy to have available when something actually needs fucking doing, which is surprisingly rarely. I guess the reason why my services are retained is because I can usually cobble something together that works, pretty damn quickly, although it always requires hypomanic levels of obsessive round-the-clock effort.

It appears that it's me who is aberrant, so I must comply and conform to the world around me. Because most people are wage-slave drones who do a whole lot of nothing most of the time, I am forced to pretend I'm just like them. I'm forced to act like I'm perfectly OK bumbling along doing sweet F.A. for most of the 40-hour week. I'm forced to act like I prefer be bored out of my tiny mind 95% of the time, just like them.

The problem is that I build up a lot of pent-up energy, like a compressed spring.

When eventually there's something to do, I race along at breakneck pace. When at long last I'm unleashed I tear along as fast as I can, because it's so damn wonderful to be free, having been held back for an eternity.

The system worked for a couple of decades. I managed to fit in for my whole career. I managed to get along just fine, even though I had a mental illness the whole time: bipolar disorder.

I discovered the unalloyed joy of telling people to fuck off. I discovered that it's not the end of the world if you quit your job and start your own company, because you were being exploited and unfairly discriminated against. I discovered that the whole capitalist society is rigged to make you paranoid about becoming unemployable, because of gaps on your CV or other less-than-ideal obedient slave behaviour.

What I later discovered is that there is a lot of very easy money to be made in the corporate world, if you're prepared to sell your soul and suffer the interminable boredom. It's easy money provided you're prepared to put up with an unfulfilling career doing things which are morally dubious. You can become a prostitute, getting fucked by the rich, or you can become a corporate whore and fuck the poor on behalf of the rich.

Only the rich have the luxury of being able to mess around doing so-called philanthropic things, with money they made from war, drugs, slavery, pimping and other forms of exploitation.

My working week consists of a whole lot of keeping my mouth shut because of my vested interests. The best thing I can do is sit quietly at my desk for 40 hours a week. Nobody cares whether I do any work or not, so long as I'm a willing participant in the conspiracy of silence. The more silent I am the better. There is an inversely proportionate relationship between how much I speak and how much I earn.

This time of year is always very difficult for me. I've had a helluva year to get to this point, but I'm in a good position to cement the gains I've made.

[I screwed up copy-pasting this text, which I'd put in the clipboard in the event that I accidentally lost my progress. I lost a few hundred words, but I'm not going to retype them now. This will have to do. I'm frustrated, but I've already written more than a thousand words, which is plenty]




Thinking Clearly

8 min read

This is a story about delicate senses...

Doggo nose

My preference for sweet or salty, my thirst and my sense of smell are all altered by alcohol, but I'm not able to perceive those alterations to my senses in any given moment. It's only when I carefully analyse my behaviour that I can see I drink more water and eat more sweet things when I've been sober for a few days, and I begin to see food as something worth spending time and effort on, instead of eating as a chore.

If alcohol can alter those senses so profoundly, I wonder what other subtle effects it has on me. The sleep I get seems to be of much lower quality when I go to bed drunk, although I don't perceive that at the time because I find it much easier to fall asleep when I've had lots to drink. When I have a break from drinking I notice that I have very vivid dreams, bordering on nightmares, which reveal a lot of things going on in my subconscious. Having used alcohol as a crutch for so long, it's amazing how much trauma I've repressed and not dealt with.

I made a prediction earlier in the week that I'd have increasingly better days, not because we're getting closer to the weekend, but because I'm sobering up. It's hard to quantify, but I found it much easier to get up this morning and although there were periods when I was bored and miserable at work, I found myself far less inclined to give up and walk out.

There was a leaving do at work and my colleagues invited me out drinking tonight. There's an open bottle of wine in my cupboard and I bought 4 more because there was an offer at the supermarket. The temptation to drink and the social pressure to get drunk is hard to escape. Alcohol is a social lubricant and can be especially welcome when making smalltalk and getting to know people. This week has felt long and difficult and it's hard not to reach for the bottle as a reward for putting myself through the misery.

Which came first? The misery or the alcohol?

I find it easy enough to stop drinking when I want to, but I wonder if I've simply become habituated into experiencing and putting up with awful feelings. Alcoholics can begin to enjoy the sensation of neat liquor burning their throat as they glug it down, and junkies can get needle fixations and enjoy injecting themselves. I wonder if my brain has become confused by my cycle of highs and lows; boom and bust. I wonder if I'm simply unable to tell when I'm half-drunk, hungover, withdrawing, completely intoxicated or stone cold sober, because there's nothing extreme enough to register on my scale. The highs and lows which I've experienced have ranged by such an exceptional amount that I've become used to never feeling very good at all. Earlier this year I didn't even notice that I had a bad chest infection, except that my ribs were so tender I couldn't sleep and it was agonising to sit up in bed in the morning, or to cough. Depression and anxiety are just things I live with, without medication.

I know that my brain is a homeostatic organ which will attempt to return itself to equilibrium. If I put stimulants into my body, I will make myself more tired. If I put depressants into my body, I will bounce back the other way. Everything has an effect for a short while before my brain readjusts and it becomes normal. It shocks me how functional I can be when full of drink and drugs, or under an incredible amount of stress and in very bad circumstances.

I'm attempting to control the variables. I'm attempting to clear my brain of drink and drugs. I'm creating a pharmacologically unpolluted state, where I'm free from nicotine, caffeine, uppers, downers, medications, hard drugs, soft drugs, legal highs and every other thing we normally use in our daily lives to tweak our moods hither and thither.

I stay in an identical hotel room and eat in the same place every night, normally choosing one of only a handful of my favourite dishes. I'm doing the same work I've done my whole 21+ year full-time career for an organisation which is ostensibly similar to all the others I've worked for, solving exactly the same problems I've solved a million times before. It's an almost perfect experiment. I can't imagine that it would be possible for almost anybody else to experiment on themselves in the same way, because so few of us are capable of giving up things like tea and coffee, or of sticking with a job which makes us excruciatingly bored and thoroughly miserable.

So far, my conclusion is that alcohol does not make the time pass any quicker, reduce anxiety or aid sleep. My conclusion is that alcohol makes it harder to concentrate and cope with the boredom. My conclusion is that alcohol is not very helpful, but I'll tell you what is helpful: money. Despite being almost continuously drunk for the past 9 consecutive months, undoubtedly the biggest changing variable has been my ever-increasing wealth. I can't say whether it would have been easier and more pleasant to reach today without alcohol, and whether I'd have been more inclined to improve areas of my life which are completely absent, such as a social life, but I can say that alcohol was ever-present. Is it possible that I might not have made it so far without alcohol? I really don't think it's likely that I would've made it through the roughest patches without alcohol as a relatively inexpensive coping mechanism, even if it's a very poor medicine for reducing anxiety, fighting depression, stabilising my mood and helping me sleep.

If we consider that a year ago I was suicidally depressed, manically high, abusing drugs, addicted to medications and generally in a dreadful state with little or no hope of escaping that situation, I don't see how it would be possible to resolve everything without something to use to self-medicate.

It's impossibly unlikely that anybody's going to gift you £100,000 and a year off work to get your life sorted out, which is what it would take to rescue somebody whose entire world has imploded spectacularly, leaving them crippled with mountainous debts, homeless, jobless, single, estranged from their family, mentally ill, alcoholic, addicted to drugs and dependent on medications.

As my head clears, I realise I've pulled of an impossible feat. I've come back from a clusterfuck of issues which should have buried me a million times over.

It's hard to avoid the pitfall of marvelling at the miraculousness of my recovery, such that I start to believe I'm special, different and perhaps even immortal. It's hard to see the evidence and to not draw the conclusion that the clearly exceptional achievement must mean I'm destined for greatness. At least I have a clear enough head to see that I've fallen foul of that before, and that it's important to keep my brain intoxicated just the right amount to stop it from overheating. Going teetotal in 2015 caused me to swing into mania, so I'm not going to make that mistake again.

I'm also aware that I'm no longer a young man and that the past few years have been very hard on my brain and body. Ultimately I can't keep pushing myself as hard as I have been and taking extreme risks. Sooner or later my luck is going to run out, even though all the evidence seems to indicate that I'm immortal.

As my thoughts start to wander towards topics which have always been a little too hot to handle - such as quantum mechanics - I now start to realise that there's a lot to be said for being a bit of a drunk, at least until I'm filthy rich again.

I've managed to avoid drinking again tonight. I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow, but I must be careful to preserve the good progress I've made this year, even if that means continuing to drink because it's my tried-and-trusted means of keeping my mania at bay. Better the devil you know.

Physically, I have a runny nose, a sore throat and a headache. I feel terrible, which I imagine is because I'm at the 3 or 4 day sober mark and my body is seriously protesting about the lack of alcohol. If I continue my sober streak I'll feel physically better, but there's always the risk that mania will rear its ugly head and I'll screw up everything I've worked for 9 consecutive months without a holiday to rebuild.

September is coming. September is my nemesis. If I can get through September smoothly, that will be a huge milestone.





4 min read

This is a story about April 20th...

420 greenhouse

Cannabis seems harmless enough, but you're not in full possession of your faculties when you're stoned. You're not intoxicated, but it has an effect, otherwise why would you even bother to get stoned? Your internal experience does not correlate with others' perceptions of reality - you might feel fine and unimpaired, but there's definitely an effect otherwise you wouldn't bother getting stoned.

When you're a little kid and your parents drink and take drugs, you never know what kind of state you're going to find them in. Are they going to tell you to piss off because they're irritable and aggressive, because they're high on cocaine? Are they going to be excessively sleepy and monged out because they've been taking heroin or other opiates? Are they going to be dribbling messes spouting gibberish, because they're stoned out of their trees? Then, there's the comedowns and hangovers. Are you going to get your head bitten off, because the drugs have worn off and they're feeling shitty? Are you going to get an unjust telling off, because they're like a bear with a sore head, blaming you for everything?

Then there's the emotional unavailability.

When your parents are druggies and alkies, they're emotionally unavailable most of the time, because your parents are seeking drugs and trying to get high and intoxicated, instead of getting on with normal family life. Instead of having cuddles, they're getting high. Instead of having hugs, they're getting high. Instead of having all those myriad little moments of love and affection, they're completely absent in the family home, because those druggie alkie parents have checked out - they've left reality.

I'm sure my parents thought - in their heads - that they did a wonderful job. Through the druggie alkie haze, their version of reality has been corrupted. Their imagination is what they remember, not the day-to-day reality. I was the one who was clean and sober. I was the one who bore witness to everything that went on, without having my brain addled by mind-altering substances. My memory is perfect. My perceptions are as close to reality as it's possible to get. I saw and I remember.

I understand addiction, because I saw it from a young age. I not only witnessed my parents' addictions but also had to breathe their second-hand smoke in confined spaces, which meant that I suffered repeated exposure to nicotine and drug smoke, at high concentrations. No effort was made to shield me from the effects of passive smoking. No consideration was paid to the health risks to me. If you smoke, your child smokes too.

My parents boasted about not being addicts. I very distinctly remember my mum boasting about not being addicted to heroin. It was the usual "we can quit anytime we want" bullshit. It was the usual denial in the face of overwhelming evidence.

It might be tempting to say that their drug abuse was relatively harmless - they had things under control; they were functional. I don't think that's really true though, when you're spending vast sums of money on drink and drugs, while there's no money for other things. I don't think it's true that it was harmless, when there is undeniably health damage from drink and drugs, and you're passively inflicting that on your children, who have no choice in the matter. I don't think that it's fair to say it's harmless, when you're normalising drug-taking behaviour and teaching your children that it's fun to take drugs; that drugs are cool.

Taking drugs is not a counter-cultural statement. Taking drugs is not a ticket to alternative society. Taking drugs is not a political protest. Taking drugs is not cool. If you think you're more of a cool person because of the kind of drugs you take, you're an idiot. If you take drugs and you let that affect your children, you're a disgusting person.

Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but it's been responsible for so many people having mental health problems, who otherwise would have been OK. Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but so many years of people's lives have been lost, sitting on the sofa dribbling and talking complete gibberish. Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but so much youthful energy has been sapped; so many revolutions averted; so much time wasted, sitting around doing absolutely nothing that's useful or productive, because of being stoned.

Smoke cannabis if you want, but I'll think of you as a bit stupid for doing it. It's up to you - make yourself deliberately lazy, unimaginative and dumb on purpose... see if I care.





9 min read

This is a story about doing no harm...

Pile of pills

Imagine that somebody says to you "you're so argumentative". What could you possibly say in return? You can't say "no I'm not" because then they'll say "yes you are and the fact that you're arguing proves it". There are lots of other quirks of the English language that allow you to box people in, such as asking questions like "so when did you stop raping children?" or some other kind of fallacy.

I'm not actually against psychiatrists and psychiatric medications. Every psychiatrist is different. Most psychiatrists who work in the NHS have to deal with society's very sickest and most dysfunctional cases. Every psychiatric bed in England is filled with somebody who is being detained against their will for 28 days, or more likely for 6 months. There aren't any spare psychiatric beds for people who are merely having a crisis and who are in danger of committing suicide - the NHS will call your bluff and leave you to die, as so many do, because mental health services are overstretched and underfunded.

The kinds of treatment on offer vary from snake-oil bullshit, such as CBT and other behavioural therapies, to chemical coshes that will put you into the drugged equivalent of a straightjacket. For sure, there are some very sick people who are psychotically disturbed, but powerful antipsychotics are not a panacea for all problems of the mind. In some countries, physical restraints are more commonplace. In the UK, we dope people up to the eyeballs.

If you've never lost your liberty you won't quite be able to comprehend how terrible it is. We're free-thinking individuals who move through the world according to our whims - the illusion of free will. When locked into an overcrowded psych ward, even if you asked to be hospitalised because you feared for your own safety, you might suddenly panic that you won't be able to get back out.

Ironically, you can't say "I'm not argumentative" when somebody wrongly accuses you of being argumentative, and it's equally impossible to say "I'm not mad" when you're trapped by psychiatry. The only strategy you can play is to be calm and patient and ignore the provocation, which is easier said than done. It's a very natural reaction to want to defend ourselves against unfounded allegations. To have our character criticised by somebody who doesn't know a damn thing about us, is incredibly insulting. When somebody who hardly knows us has the ability to detain us against our will, and even to have us forcibly medicated, then the situation is unbearable.

I don't doubt that psychiatrists believe they have their patients' best interests at heart, but there's no acknowledgement of the antagonisation, frustration, anger and upset that they provoke. Nobody should have godlike powers over any other human being. The line between sane and insane, sick and healthy, right and wrong thoughts... these are completely arbitrary. There can be no ultimate arbiter who decides who's normal and who's not - it's not right that anybody should sit in judgement.

Am I arguing that we should fling open the doors to our asylums and let the mental patients roam free? It's more complicated than that. A survey of the general public revealed that the vast majority of people wouldn't want to live next door to, work with or have their children play with a schizophrenic. It seems that those paranoid delusions are not so paranoid after all - no smoke without fire. Having had my case reviewed at mental health tribunal to decide whether to give me back my freedom or not, it appalled me how six people could sit and have a discussion about me as if I wasn't even present in the room. To button my lip and remain silent through proceedings; to maintain my polite and courteous façade - this was virtually impossible when my liberty was at stake.

Another thing that's deeply upsetting is the way that the patient is often mobbed. Ward rounds consist of sitting with a whole room full of people - usually a couple of psychiatrists and a couple of nurses - who sit stroking their chins while the patient explains the same thing for the millionth time: please stop ganging up on me and let me go. Of course, there are mental heath problems present, but the set-up is antagonising. Should we just let anorexics stop eating and die? Should we just let the psychotic do what the voices tell them to do? This isn't what I'm arguing for. I'm just pointing out that even the most sane amongst us would be driven mad by a jeering crowd, licensed to torment and keep their victims in captivity.

If you imagine that you might get to spend 10 minutes with the psychiatrist who has the power to set you free, once every week or every fortnight, all the decisions are more important than I can possibly express in words. If you're on a medication which is causing you intolerable side effects, in a psych ward setting which is causing you intolerable distress, you're going to have to wait a couple of weeks before you can have another go at trying to communicate your needs to the doctor... which you'll have to do through the foggy haze of powerful antipsychotic medication. "This man is making no sense" they'll say, because you've been drugged into a dribbling mess. What further proof could be necessary to show that you're an imbecile who could never survive outside the protective walls of an institution?

Experiments were conducted by investigative journalists, who deliberately got themselves committed to institutions, only to find they couldn't get out again - the system grabbed them. The harder you fight the system, the more you're giving the system the 'proof' that you really are mad. It's maddeningly self-perpetuating.

Very few of us have the ability to bring our racing pulse back under control, to lower our respiration rate, to relax our muscles. Very few of us possess the ability to react to incredible stress, by calming ourselves and being patient. The most antagonisingly provocative situation will elicit the most predictable response: people don't like having their freedom taken away, told what to do and being judged by strangers who pry into every aspect of their private life.

To have captive creatures to toy with as we please must make those men and women who wield godlike powers feel very full of themselves. "It's for your own good" is the well-worn defence for the indefensible. The very nature of the relationship is toxic to mental health. Mental health treatment cannot be imposed by those who know best, because they don't know best - psychiatry is such a young branch of medicine. Nobody really has a clue what they're doing. Long-term outcomes are abysmal and the mental health epidemic continues to grow apace. Clearly, evidence-based medicine is not being practiced.

Of course I don't think that psychiatrists and mental health nurses and all the other people who offer medical and complementary treatments for ailments of the mind, are bad people. Of course they're not bad people. I don't believe there's a Big Pharma conspiracy. The truth is though, people are sicker than ever before and the treatments aren't working. My objection is with those who talk authoritatively as if there are useful diagnoses and accompanying medications and therapies which are making a profound impact... it's just not the case at all. What's happening is abysmal, and nobody is admitting they've got it wrong - a lot of people aren't sick, they just hate capitalism and modern society.

Good science means controlling the variables. I've aggressively cut out all psychoactive substances. Tomorrow I shall tell my psychiatrist that I'm debt-laden and forced to work a job that conflicts with my values and needs. My malaise is a function of the conflict in my heart, knowing that banking is a morally bankrupt profession, loan-sharking and taking advantage of the most vulnerable. My prescription? The end of capitalism and the return to a society where we're intimately connected to our local communities... do you think they'll stock that in the chemist?

Getting my happiness and contentment back in the current economic climate looks to be an impossible task. However, to medicate myself because I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world is not a good course of action.

Of course, my psychiatrist doesn't have the ability to cure me of my intolerable situation. I've got to work. I've got to travel to where the jobs are. I've got to pay my bills and service my debts. But, I don't need medical solutions to a non-medical problem.

Why even go to see my psychiatrist, when I don't think they can help me? Well, it's obvious isn't it? If we keep sending people away with pills, then we keep proceeding with our delusion that they're working and things are going to improve one day. How many times a year do you suppose a psychiatrist meets somebody who's foresworn ALL psychoactive substances, including caffeine and nicotine, and is a functional high-achieving member of society, to all outward appearances? To say that a medical problem - suicidal depression and debilitating anxiety - doesn't have a medical solution is heresy, but somebody has to stand up to those who dogmatically decree that they have the solutions, when they demonstrably do not.

Being unmedicated is really horrible and I feel terrible, but I'm being a bit of a martyr because I've got a point to prove. One day I will escape from the burden of debt, the soul-destruction of bullshit jobs and the need to commute long distances, preventing me from forming social bonds and having a work:life balance. One day I'll get a girlfriend and a cat and a home of my own and all the other things that humans need to feel complete, and then we can re-examine the situation and ask if I need medication. Until such time as the major problems in my life still exist, then medication looks like a dangerous option, because medication is allowing our society to develop into a grotesquely unhealthy form. Just because medication allows you to do awful things, it doen't mean you should do awful things. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

A certain proportion of society will always struggle to abide by its rules, its laws and its social contract. A certain proportion of society will be criminals and parasites - anti-social. However, when the vast majority of us are struggling and unhappy, then we've made a wrong turn somewhere; we've made a mistake and we need to retrace our steps.

I refuse to be labelled and drugged.




Unholy Trinity

11 min read

This is a story about lethal combinations...

Three empty cans

Those who are familiar with the more extreme end of Grindr casual sex shenanigans will know that there's an unholy trinity of club drugs - crystal meth, GBL/GHB and viagra - which provide the sexual stamina for outrageously debaucherous f**kfests. To arrange drug-fuelled sex parties via the Grindr app is shockingly quick and easy. Under the influence of these drugs, one's sexual appetites are rarely satiated.

My own unholy trinity is far more prosaic - sleeping pills, tranquillisers and alcohol.

I never intended on becoming hooked on 'downers' and indeed I was very well aware of the physically addictive nature of the benzodiazepines. There is absolutely nothing that appeals to me about being intoxicated on CNS depressants. I do not enjoy feeling under the influence of the GABA agonists. For me, it was all about wanting the absence of something: the absence of panic attacks where I felt like I was going to die; the absence of interminable insomnia; the absence of the skin-crawling feeling of anxiety; an escape from a life that was unbearably awful.

Alcohol was a taste I had to acquire. Getting drunk was a necessary part of getting laid - Dutch courage. Booze was ubiquitous at work and it was necessary to be a drinker to get ahead in my career. I would have been a suspicious outsider if I'd been sober during the many drunken lunches, after-work beers and meals where wine flowed liberally. Alcohol lubricates the world of investment banking and I fully embraced the culture.

Valium crept into my life as I searched for something to help me manage the undesirable side effects of stimulant abuse. I thought I could swallow a couple of pills and sleep off the worst of my addiction without any consequences. I knew that I was playing with fire - to use one addictive drug to combat the effects of another - but that's the kind of addict logic that I applied at the time. I knew that if I abused benzodiazepines for more than a few months, I'd end up with a physical dependency that would cause me to have seizures if I abruptly stopped taking the pills. I did what I felt I had to do.

Sleeping pills never held any appeal. If there's one thing I'm really good at, it's sleeping. I quickly figured out that the best way to escape an oppressive and unpleasant world is to be unconscious. I can put myself into a zoned-out trancelike state and sit quietly for hours. I can spend all day dozing in bed, even after 12 hours of restful sleep. I'm a master of sleep. Why would I dabble with sleeping pills?

Some of the benzodiazepines have a very long half-life. If you take benzos - like Valium - for a long time, they never really leave your bloodstream. If you're addicted to Valium, you're just topping up when you take the pills. Strangely, it's possible to have insomnia when you're on tranquillisers - you just lie there awake, not caring at all that you're not asleep. It's restful, but it's not refreshing, if you know what I mean?

During one of the most difficult periods of my addiction to a powerful stimulant - a drug that sends me completely psychotically insane - I could hear helicopters hovering over my apartment. All the traffic on the road had stopped - I couldn't hear any motorbikes, cars, lorries, buses or trucks. Then, I heard a lot of yelling. To my paranoid drug-addled and sleep-deprived mind, this was the thing I'd been dreading: the police and the army were coming to get me and drag me in front of a crowd of people, to shame and ridicule me. The 'enemy' were coming to get me. Then, I heard a commentator announce that the first runners of the London Marathon were about to come past my apartment block. Of course! It was the marathon, the route of which travels right past where I was living.

I was still fairly traumatised by the whole marathon thing, even though I quite quickly figured out that the helicopter wasn't there to deliver a SWAT team clad in black uniforms in through my bedroom windows. I turned to diazepam to soothe my jangled nerves. I swallowed about 20 high-strength 10mg blue tablets. That's a HELL of a lot of diazepam. It didn't touch the sides. What I really wanted was to be unconscious. Sometimes, being tranquillised up to the eyeballs just isn't enough.

Zopiclone and zolpidem entered my life as medications to allow me to have a seemingly normal sleep/wake cycle. When I was abusing a powerful stimulant, it would not be uncommon for me to spend four or five nights without sleeping at all. The most nights I ever went without sleep was about ten, which sent me completely barmy, of course. As you reach the outer extremities of an impossibly bad stimulant addiction, strangely you yearn to have a normal appetite and normal sleep. The tranquillisers helped me to stay on top of stimulant psychosis, but I needed sleeping pills otherwise I was just going to die from a low immune system, or otherwise go completely and permanently insane.

I can't stress enough how important sleep is. Without regular refreshing sleep, nothing else is going to fall into place. There's no hope of improvement and recovery without sleep.

The sleeping pills - such as zopiclone and zolpidem - don't actually give you normal sleep. Sometimes you can 'wake up' and feel a little bit like you've been asleep, but you haven't been - you've been drugged. Your body and your brain kind of knows the difference between sleep and unconsciousness. When you suddenly jerk awake and you say "what! where am I?" then that's usually an indication that you've been drugged, rather than sleeping.

I used sleeping pills for most of 2017. I almost don't know how to sleep without them. When you get habituated into using sleeping pills, you can get very anxious about trying to sleep without them. The anxiety around getting enough sleep builds and builds. You spend horrible days at work where you're trying to keep your eyes open, and then horrible nights awake because you desperately want to get enough sleep to catch up, but you can never get enough. Bedtime becomes super charged with nervous energy and you have an incredible longing for a night of refreshing sleep. The more you want sleep, the harder it is to get it. Sleeping pills are addictive, because they take away that anxiety and deliver some kind of dependable nightly rest, even if it's not very refreshing.

I abused my little toxic trio of chemicals because they gave me back my life. My life used to revolve around the highly potent and addictive stimulant drug which I had unfortunately become incurably hooked on. My life was going to hell in a hand cart. I was on collision course with permanent psychosis. I was definitely going to end up locked up in a mental institution for the rest of my days. To fight fire with fire was madness, but it worked. Although it was very dangerous and I nearly died as a result of poly-substance abuse, somehow I popped out the other side intact.

I didn't drink alcohol since last Saturday. Once I start drinking, I don't seem to be able stop when I want to. I don't seem to be able to drink in moderation. When I get the taste of beer or wine, I glug it down and I don't stop until I think "oh dear, I've had too much to drink". Because of all the occasions when I've thought "I wish I hadn't drunk so much" recently, I've decided that not drinking is the safest course of action.

I've been taking sleeping pills all week. I need some sort of crutch dagnammit! How am I supposed to cope in such unfavourable conditions without something to help make life a little more manageable. To lose sleep would be bound to push me back towards strange strung-out thinking, and make me liable to say or do something stupid.

One week from today I will see a psychiatrist. It's been 8 weeks or so since I last saw a psychiatrist. I haven't been taking any medication - except for the aforementioned sleeping pills - and I'm wondering if I should cut my pills down to absolute zero. It would be really wonderful to say that I'm not a drinker, not a smoker, I don't have tea, coffee, cola or energy drinks, and I don't take ANY medication at all. It's so rare that a psychiatrist would encounter somebody who's completely free from ALL psychoactive substances. I think I would really love it, to have the psychiatrist ask me "so, how do you feel?" and be able to answer, knowing that it's me and only me, and not some version that's twisted by caffeine, nicotine, drink, drugs and medications. How precious would that be, to be my real authentic unadulterated self?

To get to this point where I might be able to be completely free from all mind-altering substances has been an almost impossibly unbearably awful experience that's put my life at great danger, as well as my livelihood. Why the hell would I put myself through so much suffering? Why wouldn't I go a little more easy on myself?

What I find with substances is that they're insidious. Every time you say "one cigarette won't hurt" or "one glass of wine will be OK" you could be setting off down a road that leads to a whole bottle of wine, two bottles of wine, a bottle of vodka. I'm never going to be some boring teetotaller, but at the moment my life is so unbearable that I'll keep pouring myself glass after glass of booze until the pain and the anxiety is blocked out and I'm blacked out.

My nightly sleeping pill habit is comparatively healthy. I don't increase the dose. The dose is measured. There aren't any fattening calories in a sleeping tablet. Sleeping tablets don't give me awful hangovers. There could be much worse things to be hooked on. However, wouldn't it be awesome to look the psychiatrist straight in the eye and say "I haven't taken a single mind-altering substance for a week now".

This week has been awful without my little chemical helpers, but maybe next week will be better, and the week after will be even better still. Wouldn't it be awesome if I break free from chemical dependencies?

Of course, I will have to admit that I had unbearable anxiety and suffered suicidal thoughts that very nearly killed me. I will have to admit that it would have been sensible to take the sertraline (Zoloft in the USA or Lustral in the UK) instead of trying to tough it out without, and abusing things which I really shouldn't have done. It's true that I could have developed a sertraline habit by now - the withdrawal syndrome is pretty awful, so I'd be trapped onto yet another addictive medication. Yes, it would have helped me to get through some super stressful awfulness, but I'm going to end up like the old lady who swallowed the spider to catch the fly etc. etc.

My friend who's a doctor is incredibly frustrated that "Nick knows best" as usual. They're mad as hell that I'm doing my own thing; marching to my own beat. It seems patently absurd to reject a medication that could be a tiny bit better than placebo, in as little as 8 weeks. So, why is it that I feel a little bit better today? Seems rather coincidental, doesn't it?

My week at work was awful. In fact, I was too unwell to work for 3 out of 5 days. My week was almost unbearable. In the interests of being fair and honest, I must admit that this last week has made me question my stubborn decision. I've wondered whether I made a mistake. Then, I remember that I'm closer than I've ever been to proving my point: that I can be stable, contented and happy without pills. I plan on rejecting all my diagnoses at some point. I plan on declaring myself sane. I plan on being 'normal'.

How does somebody become normal if the paternalistic guardian class can always say "that's only because you're on the right medication"? When it says "medication takes 6 to 8 weeks to become effective" what would happen if you didn't take the damn pills? That's what I'm finding out. It was super telling to me that people were so quick to say "told you so" when the game wasn't even finished - the results aren't in yet.

It's been awful, but I'm winning. Bi-winning.




Numb & Dumb

5 min read

This is a story about being medicated...

Various assorted pills

It would substantially benefit my bank balance if I was to swallow substances that would remove my brain from my skull and place it into a jar - a chemical straightjacket. My doctors are falling over themselves to give me pills that will put me into a warped kind of reality - an altered state - where my perceptions are chemically changed.

If you put your hand in a fire and it's hurting because your hand is getting burnt, you have two choices. Firstly, you could remove your hand from the fire. Secondly, you could take a drug so that you don't feel the pain or care about your hand getting burnt.

I remain absolutely convinced that I'm in a state of depressive realism that's allowing me to perceive the madness of our late-capitalist society. I see suffering and injustice everywhere I look. I see the ridiculous situation where powerful incompetent men are paid millions of pounds, despite screwing everything up, while the people who do the most essential jobs in society are paid a pittance. The poor give every penny they earn back to the wealthy men for the privilege of being alive. It's a bitter pill to swallow.

Why have we defined "functional" to mean doing jobs that we hate? Why have we defined "functional" to mean not rocking the boat; not challenging the status quo? Why are our most "functional" members of society the ones who are causing the most human misery?

To decide not to take medication is a political statement. To decline to have my body violated - simply to conform with a political system that I don't agree with - makes me into a kind of political prisoner. I'm a victim of "fit in or f**k off" culture.

It seems to me like most people depend on substances - alcohol, tea, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, nicotine e-liquids, antidepressants, anxiolytics, tranquillisers, sleeping pills, painkillers - and very few of us are able to live life substance-free. What is it about modern life that pushes us onto these addictive substances and keeps us dependent on them? Why should it be mandated to use psychoactive substances, just to live my life?

It seems deeply immoral to have constructed a society that's unbearable except with something to 'take the edge off'. It seems like a complete car crash of a situation that we have to reach for chemicals just to be able to function and fit in. It seems like bullying and coercion to me. I have deep ethical objections to a world that forces me to put substances into my body against my will.

I fought hard to free myself from my dependence on caffeine. Quitting coffee was challenging. Quitting tea was relentlessly difficult. Avoiding caffeinated beverages is tricky.

I had the good fortune of never becoming addicted to nicotine, except when addiction was forced upon me by my parents breathing their second-hand smoke all over me in a confined space, which was wicked and immoral.

I deliberately spend lengthy periods without alcohol, to clear my mind of all substances. Alcohol is ubiquitous and hard to avoid. There's huge amounts of peer pressure to drink.

Finally, I find myself fending off prescription medications. Without prescribed pills, life is very hard. It's almost expected that modern life is going to induce anxiety and depression in most of us, and so it's us who must change rather than us changing the circumstances that produce the unbearable mental health problems - we consent to having mind-altering substances put into our bodies, because we have little choice in the matter.

If you want money - and I imagine that you probably need it - then you're going to have to slurp tea & coffee, suck on your e-cigarette, get drunk and pop pills. We've arrived at a state where life is so utterly depressing and shit that we need all these chemicals to pretend that it isn't.

In the face of so many obvious problems in the world, is the answer to take pills that allow us to be wilfully ignorant and carry on regardless? In the face of the whole shambolic mess threatening to crumble into dust at any moment, should we be so coerced and bullied into medicating ourselves?

We live with incredible insecurity. Our jobs are utter bullshit and we could lose them at any moment. Our wages barely cover our living expenses, and in many cases they don't. Payday lenders and other legal loan sharks put us into a constant state of debt-laden fear. Our livelihoods are under constant threat; our homes. Where's the security? Where's the comfort? Where's the contentment and relaxation and happiness going to come from, in this bullshit merry-go-round of horrible jobs and insufficient money to ever escape from the rat race?

Eventually, it's all too much and we capitulate. "Give me something to make me feel better, doc" we say. We swallow our antidepressants, anxiolytics, tranquillisers, sleeping pills and painkillers because we can't afford to take time off to get better. We can't afford to drop out of the rat race. We can't afford to show any weakness. We can't afford to catch our breath.

The capitalists have got us right where they want us - numb and dumb. We're so f**king doped up that we don't realise how awful we've let things get. We don't dare to imagine a better world. We just keep chasing that ever-elusive dream that one day we'll get to quit the rat race, but we never will because we're all doped up to the eyeballs with enough drugs to tranquillise an elephant.

That's why I don't take the damn pills. That's why I'm going through the shit I'm going through - I want to experience reality and I don't want to be yet another dull-eyed slave.





5 min read

This is a story about neurotoxicity...

Eye droop

What's happened to the left hand side of my face? My eyelid has drooped; my face is no longer symmetrical. Why do I have a facial tic? Why is my speech slow and slurred? Aren't these all symptoms of cognitive impairment; brain damage?

I decided to read back through some of my blog - I read from February through to June, when I was very unwell. I was surprised that a lot of it was gibberish - I thought that I had written with lucidity, but I had mis-remembered things.

As is so often the case with me, I dice with death and I dodge bullets. I'm still very sick, but I'm getting better. I'm going to make a full recovery. My speech is normal; my face doesn't tic and my eyelid no longer droops. The brain is a remarkable thing, but I do need to stop abusing my body.

A month ago I was livid; I was unbelievably angry. I was fighting for my income, my home and my liberty - I was fighting for my legal rights - and I was spitting venom; I was furious at being abused; mistreated; taken advantage of.

I re-read the lengthy blog post I wrote a month ago, which started OK, but then I got plunged into repetitive thoughts - you can tell that my brain was stuck on a loop and I repeated myself several times. It's surprising that I could express myself fairly well, given the circumstances. I imagine that it took me a long time to compose what I wrote, and I clearly struggled to remember what I'd written at the start, as I reached the end.

It's tempting to edit and airbrush history, but it's much more interesting to maintain a public record of exactly what I was thinking and feeling at a certain point in time. Inadvertently I also capture other details about my state of mind in the way in which I express myself.

I've now been writing for long enough to capture two periods of total abstinence from all mind-altering substances, including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. I'm a lifelong non-smoker. I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages in 2013. During this particular period of abstinence, I've not drunk any alcohol for 35 consecutive days.

What's the net result of all this?

Me as a kid

Nah, I'm only kidding... that was me when I was twenty years old. However, I'm sure there's been a marked improvement now that all the crap is out of my system.

A few friends spoke to me soon after I arrived on the psych ward. Although I sounded like my old self and I was in good spirits, my recovery was only just beginning - friends who see me and speak to me on a regular basis report that I'm much improved from how I was a month ago.

My hair, my skin, my nails, my teeth, my breath, my sweat and most importantly, my brain - all of these things are completely different, now that I'm not glugging gallons of booze and popping loads of pills.

I cringe with shame a little bit, to think that I made myself very exposed and vulnerable at a time when I was very unwell - the public got a little bit of a behind-the-scenes peek at me when I was extremely poorly. You can go digging in the archives, if it pleases you, or you can take my word for it: there's no surprises and there should be no pleasure in gawping at somebody when they're sick.

If we've not spoken for a while, I highly recommend that you get in contact and we actually speak on the phone - my email is You might be very surprised to learn that your friend is in possession of most of his marbles, and not the raving lunatic that you might have guessed I would be, after such a traumatic couple of years.

Recovery selfie

Here's another one for the photo album, taken only seconds ago. My left eye is not yet 100% and I'm still suffering a lot of brain fog and other recovery-related problems - it'll be a month or two before I'm fighting fit. My face still tics when I'm stressed, but it's less pronounced.

I'm struggling with horrible anxiety, depression and confusion; memory problems. None of this is a surprise to me - it's to be expected, given what I've been through and I'm still going through.

I've got no idea what I'm really writing about, or what my purpose is now. Is this still the world's longest suicide note, or am I now campaigning to end the stigmatisation and discrimination that our less fortunate members of society must face: the mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts and homeless people... the dregs that nobody wants to touch with a bargepole. I know that I want to be the voice of the voiceless, although I know how clichéd that sounds.

I'm swimming through a fog of confusion, but I know I'm slowly getting better.