Author Topic: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?  (Read 976 times)

Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« on: September 17, 2018, 04:38:46 PM »
Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?

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... In this historical moment, drugs fuel a culture where human nature is increasingly considered to be controllable through technology. But the essential question is this: do drugs enhance or diminish human agency, the ability to modulate one’s own thought processes?

Whether a drug boosts attention, tamps down inhibitions or deranges the senses in service of euphoria, use can become ingrained and can spiral out of control until one can be said to be addicted to the effects of the drug. The overuse of recreational drugs and socially acceptable stimulants seems to negate, distort or inflate one’s sense of agency, at which point an individual becomes dependent on drugs to cope in professional and social situations. In these cases, drugs, in the long term, are indeed counter-productive tools: they both occlude agency and compromise self-development.

Psychopharmacology implies that distinct mental illnesses are somehow natural kinds of personality formations defined by neurochemical profiles. For instance, in claiming that I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) I am contextualising all my behaviours within a totalising abnormality that requires a pharmaceutical cure – a treatment beyond the capacities of my introspection and social support network. Practitioners prescribing such drugs in such a scenario are de facto technicians of the mind. They are easing our pain, but they are also dispensing cultural tools that allow us to selectively reduce or augment our sense of personal agency and power to set our own path.

One question to ask then is: How many individuals have found, through these tools, a sweet spot that blends augmentation of the will and alleviation of pain? If the number is large, then drugs fall into the same category as cars, electric guitars and mobile phones; tools that, if used judiciously, can ameliorate our quality of life. From that perspective, drugs are just one of many tools, including the tool of talk therapy, that serve to secure an appropriate sense of agency. And yet a somewhat worrisome consideration arises – maybe maintaining a sense of agency is not the best indicator of the appropriateness of a given tool. In our transhuman future, we are likely to abandon the psychodynamic tools of self-actualisation for cocktails offering the illusion of agency and escape.



I recommend reading the entire article. I think this question of whether psychoactive drugs increase or decrease human agency is very interesting. Addiction clearly diminishes human agency but so does something like untreated psychosis. Is it better to take a benzodiazepine and instantly relieve anxiety rather than the more time-consuming work of learning cognitive techniques? If I need Ambien to sleep, Adderall to focus, alcohol to socialize, marijuana to relax, ecstasy to enjoy sex, psilocybin to be spiritual am I more free because I am managing my mental states or less free because I believe I need these substances?
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

Offline Draconic Aiur

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2018, 04:56:07 PM »
They improve life and enhance our greatest gift:Imagination.

Offline Baruch

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2018, 07:47:24 PM »
Sometimes drugs, including alcohol, are necessary to release inhibitions, including mental and emotional inhibitions.  This is why ancient culture regarded them as both dangerous, and gateways to the gods.  See Quetzalcoatl vs Tezcatlipoca.
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Offline Sal1981

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2018, 09:04:50 PM »
Depends on the drug. Alcohol, definitely diminishes human agency, by making the user less aware of their actions, hence why inhibitions vape away corollarily with increasing alcohol consumption, all the way until it impedes speech and motor function. Don't drink and drive, kids.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Offline Cavebear

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2018, 05:02:18 AM »
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Depends on the drug. Alcohol, definitely diminishes human agency, by making the user less aware of their actions, hence why inhibitions vape away corollarily with increasing alcohol consumption, all the way until it impedes speech and motor function. Don't drink and drive, kids.

The serious debate is the effect after just a drink or two.  Too much of anything is bad.  Bananas are healthy, but eat too many and you poop goo.

But slight amounts of many drugs that are harmful in quantity can offer benefits at lower dosages.  Just saying it is not just an either/or question.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline SGOS

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2018, 09:27:18 AM »
Currently, Federal criminalizing of marijuana prevents funding for research on medical use of the drug.  I guess the thinking is... Well, I don't know what the thinking is. 

But it's clear that politics does not require research or data to create law.  Also, NPR reported that over 61% of the population wants the Federal Government to decriminalize marijuana, but the Fed has made no effort to decriminalize, and therefore has no way of conducting research about its actual benefits or it's dangers. 

It's like our leaders are stuck in the era of my formative years, where everyone knew, including me, that marijuana led to heroine addiction.  We all knew this was true, and any scientific data to prove it was unnecessary.  We just knew, and we avoided marijuana as it was the bane of skid row bums and perverts.  You would end up on Heroine and sell your body to support your habit.

Offline Cavebear

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2018, 07:23:42 AM »
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Currently, Federal criminalizing of marijuana prevents funding for research on medical use of the drug.  I guess the thinking is... Well, I don't know what the thinking is. 

But it's clear that politics does not require research or data to create law.  Also, NPR reported that over 61% of the population wants the Federal Government to decriminalize marijuana, but the Fed has made no effort to decriminalize, and therefore has no way of conducting research about its actual benefits or it's dangers. 

It's like our leaders are stuck in the era of my formative years, where everyone knew, including me, that marijuana led to heroine addiction.  We all knew this was true, and any scientific data to prove it was unnecessary.  We just knew, and we avoided marijuana as it was the bane of skid row bums and perverts.  You would end up on Heroine and sell your body to support your habit.

*I* want the right to buy a marijuana brownie once in a while.  Safely and legally.  Just for the enjoyment...  The denial of that option offends me.  And as long as Republicans fight to forbid it, I will never vote for one again.  Well, for other reasons, too, but that is one.  It just shows their mindset that if anyone anywhere is happy, they must be failing at their goals.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline Baruch

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2018, 08:38:27 AM »
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*I* want the right to buy a marijuana brownie once in a while.  Safely and legally.  Just for the enjoyment...  The denial of that option offends me.  And as long as Republicans fight to forbid it, I will never vote for one again.  Well, for other reasons, too, but that is one.  It just shows their mindset that if anyone anywhere is happy, they must be failing at their goals.

The function of every society is to selectively enslave its members.  Yes, and Democrats  are all party animals ;-)
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2018, 07:05:55 AM »
Here's my favorite article on psychedelics:

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My opinions on the matter align with Galen Strawson's.

Offline Cavebear

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2018, 07:32:32 AM »
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The function of every society is to selectively enslave its members.  Yes, and Democrats  are all party animals ;-)

Like Brett Kavanaugh?

My experience is that Democrats are "nice" party animals while Republicans are "mean" party animals.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline Baruch

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2018, 07:27:20 PM »
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Like Brett Kavanaugh?

My experience is that Democrats are "nice" party animals while Republicans are "mean" party animals.

You only went to boring soy boy parties apparently.
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Offline Baruch

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2018, 07:30:16 PM »
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Here's my favorite article on psychedelics:

You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

My opinions on the matter align with Galen Strawson's.

Yes, but only under doctor's orders.

But taking acid can make you into a Hindu guru ... Ram Dass.  So watch out, our terrestrial and immanent views might be replaced by celestial and transcendent ones.
𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎌𐎀𐎍𐎎𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀𐎟𐎍𐎜𐎜𐎟𐎁𐎀𐎍𐎉𐎀𐎀𐎚𐎀
luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Offline Cavebear

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2018, 09:16:13 AM »
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You only went to boring soy boy parties apparently.

I would have to know what "soy boy" means.  I  tried grass, hash, and those mild "white cross speeds" in college in the safety of the dorm.  And it WAS the first true "co-ed" dorm at Univ of MD, so there were women around too.  But that was the safest place they could be.

I wouldn't say the same for the frat houses (which we all despised).
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline SGOS

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2018, 11:41:46 AM »
In 1962 the sorority coeds were all like, "I'm in a sorority.  Are you in a fraternity?"  If you said no, the rest of the evening never amounted to much.  In 1970, campus politics and who's who status turned in the presence the free love generation, and the sorority coeds adopted a form of sorority apologetics, "I'm in a sorority, but their all really nice girls.  Please don't think I'm just a fluff head."  I don't know if that has switched back or not now.

Offline Cavebear

Re: Do psychotropic drugs enhance, or diminish, human agency?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2018, 12:18:59 PM »
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In 1962 the sorority coeds were all like, "I'm in a sorority.  Are you in a fraternity?"  If you said no, the rest of the evening never amounted to much.  In 1970, campus politics and who's who status turned in the presence the free love generation, and the sorority coeds adopted a form of sorority apologetics, "I'm in a sorority, but their all really nice girls.  Please don't think I'm just a fluff head."  I don't know if that has switched back or not now.
Well, 68-74 there were "frats" "dormers", and the "commuters".  We all hated each other, mostly.  But the girls had a different life.  The sorority ones had the life that the accusers of Kavanaugh are complaining about.  The girls in the dorms dated boys in the dorms in a whole differrent way, and the guys and gals in the coed dorm were further different still.  We were friends first by just living in the same place.  I bet relationships there lasted to marriages.

It is hard to explain. 
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

 

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