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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Un-Reality Therapy

Updated: 3 days ago

Decades ago, there was a popular therapy called, Reality Therapy.   The aim was what you’d expect:  to help clients live in reality.

The therapy wasn’t designed for psychotic people who were delusional.  It was for the average person whose denial and avoidance caused anxiety, anger, and depression.

The author, William Glasser, acknowledged that when it comes to living in reality, "easier said than done." Life is hard!  We humans have to contend with illness, depression, grief, disappointment, and trauma.

But Glasser believed that most mental health issues come from avoiding one’s problems.   The role of therapists should be to help clients deal with what is.

I thought of Reality Therapy when I saw an ad for “Ketamine Therapy.”  I don’t want to promote the website.  But its name didn’t exactly promote reality, but the opposite.  It was something like:  Euphoric Life.

To have this Euphoric Life, one must simply hand over about $150 a month to get a 30 day supply of Ketamine, a hallucinogenic drug.  Ketamine has been banned for decades, but has been resuscitated recently and legalized in several states, including ours.

Now I understand the logic of trying hallucinogens for intractable depression, that is, depression so severe that nothing has helped, including psychiatric medications.   Ketamine may be an appropriate last-ditch effort for debilitating depression or severe chronic pain, both of which can be life-threatening.

But the problem is that the website doesn’t restrict usage to severe conditions.  It promotes Ketamine even for low self-esteem and work stress.  

Low self-esteem? Work stress?  I mean, who doesn’t have work stress and some low self-esteem?

Now, even though it's a small dose, taking a once-banned hallucinogen could possibly lead to having a bad trip.  Then what?

There’s a solution there, for a price, of course.  The person can hire a hallucinogenic guide to accompany him or her on the journey.  

In fact, the use of hallucinogens is such a potential cash cow that many groups are taking full advantage of the upcoming craze.  There’s a psychology grad school in SF that is offering a certificate in becoming a hallucinogenic guide.  

They are banking on not just ketamine being legalized, but also psilocybin (mushrooms) and LSD. Legalizing all of these drugs will happen eventually, I think, because it's a slippery slope.

Any potential problems with all of this?  Let’s imagine a situation in real time,  “Kate,” stressed out about her job and her recent divorce.  She signs up for $150 a month for a supply of ketamine.   But in 6 months, the rates go up to $200.  (And, of course, up and up it goes.)  

The treatment is helping, but after about 9 months, the benefits start to wear off.  Her advisor at Euphoric Life suggests bumping up to two pills a day. The company will even magnanimously sell her the 60 pills a month for $300 a month, rather than $400.

After a year of so, Kate can’t afford it anymore.  She wants to stop.  But now her body has to go through withdrawal.  (The Euphoric Life website does acknowledge that there can be withdrawal symptoms when you stop the drug.)

She can’t handle the withdrawal, gets more depressed than before, and returns to Ketamine.  She has to cut down on entertainment with friends and vacations to afford it, which is making her more depressed.    

Kate also wonders about the long-term effects on her brain of Ketamine. The Euphoric Life website admits that no long-term studies have been completed yet.

As you can tell, I'm not a fan of dragging out risky hallucinogens and selling them to a widespread and affluent audience. Those drugs have done a lot of damage to people's brains. (Please see my previous blog, "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds Revisited.")

The healthier alternative is, I think, to live with what it is, to deal with reality, as William Glasser taught.  (And if you need medication, work with your doctor to see if one could help.)

Life is not easy for anyone, including me.  But maybe life is an opportunity to grow in character and wisdom, not just in ease and comfort.

And, perhaps, there is a reason for the hard stuff in life; it can help us build courage, inner strength,  and make the good times even sweeter.  


(Note: I am a Baby Boomer, and back in the day we called LSD, mushrooms, etc. what they are -- hallucinogens. But now the drugs are being marketed as "psychedelics," a name that sounds way cooler and vaguer but a name I'm not choosing to use.)

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