This in post we will explain why everyone should try LSD at least once and also discuss about the lessons we have learned from the failed war on drugs.
Rosie Tran: Welcome, everyone. You’re listening to Rosie & BJ Save The World, the podcast where we dive into the complicated issues of the day and try to solve all the world’s problems. I’m excited to introduce my co-host who is an author, speaker, and professional wrestling expert, BJ Mendelson. BJ, how are you?
BJ Mendelson: I’m awesome. How about you?
Rosie Tran: I’m so excited about this podcast and this idea we came up with because we had a lot in common politically and socially with the issues that we believe in, and I was like, “Hey, we need to give this information to other people so they can have it.”
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. I think that the more people that we have talking about this stuff, the better.
Rosie Tran: Yeah. A lot of the issues that we’re dealing with have solutions. But I think a lot of the media and politicians are not talking about these topics, so it’s important that we bring it to people. But today we’re going to be covering the war on drugs, the failed war on drugs.
BJ Mendelson: Well, it depends on which drug you’re talking about.
Rosie Tran: All right. Well, I’m interested to hear your point of view. I know you were reading a book about drugs. I know that there’s a huge opioid crisis, and I know that… Is it Portugal that has an amazing drug program? Are you familiar with this?
BJ Mendelson: No, I haven’t seen this.
Rosie Tran: Okay. There’s a book called “Chasing the Scream”, and they talk about some of the misunderstandings with the drug issues. Portugal was like, “Okay, so many people are dying of drugs in this country. What do we need to do?” So they got together all the smartest people in the country, scientists and statisticians. They’re like, “We need to solve this problem. It’s not left. It’s not right. We just need to solve this problem. Whenever you guys come up with the data, we’re going to do it.” And so the data that they came up with was these Use Rooms. Have you heard of them?
BJ Mendelson: I have not.
Rosie Tran: Okay. They create these Use Rooms where they actually give people free drugs, heroin, and other drugs. People use them, and the caveat is that you have to use them in the Use Rooms. They’re treating drug addiction as a health issue, not as a personal issue.
BJ Mendelson: That’s great.
Rosie Tran: The idea is that if you give drug addicts drugs, it actually decreases drug use because one of the ways that drug users get money for drugs is that they sell drugs. And so they get new people addicted to drugs to fuel their drug addiction.
By giving drug addicts free drugs, they don’t need to go out and recruit new users. That makes drug usage go down. By having drugs done in a safe environment where they actually have a nurse there and they monitor you because they’re saying these people are addicted, that actually is safer and there are fewer ODs and fewer deaths from drugs.
They don’t just give them drugs. They give them drugs to use, and then they also support them to go into addiction rehabilitation programs and rehabilitate them back into the community. And so this was the data that the prime minister of Portugal found with his research with the top scientists in the country and the top statisticians that worked, and it has worked.
Drug usage has decreased significantly. So I think that is amazing. Again, it sounds counterintuitive to give drug addicts more drugs. But it has been a successful program, so I think that is a start.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. No, that’s certainly the right approach. We’ve seen that not just with drugs but also with things like homelessness where if we just change how we approach these things, we can fix it.
Rosie Tran: Yes. I think the way we look at things has been so old school. It’s like we’re going off this old-school 1950s model, and that doesn’t work. What we do in the US is, “Oh, let’s throw more money at this problem.” or, “Let’s keep doing what’s not working.” instead of thinking a little bit outside the box.
They had a needle program that they were trying to do right here in Southern California where I live. I know you’re in New York. There was such resistance to it from the local community in Santa Ana, California. They were like, “We don’t want drug users here in our community. We don’t want homeless people here in our community.” All of this fear and craziness, I think comes from a lack of information and a lot of ignorance. It’s really sad.
BJ Mendelson: Well, a lot of it is also a lack of empathy. I think that it’s easy to separate things and be like, “Oh. They’re homeless, and I’m not. Therefore, they must have done something to be homeless. Therefore, I’m right and they’re wrong. Why should I help them? Because they’re wrong.” So there’s a lot of that. We see that in New York City too where we have tens of thousands of people in the shelters on any given day.
That’s not counting the people who just don’t go into the shelters for one reason or another, so there’s probably twice that. There’s been a plan for a while now of putting up not micro homes, I know other parts of the country are doing the micro home thing, but putting up basically the large-scale housing into different boroughs. People say they’re all for it. But then when it comes time to actually build it, you hear them saying, “Well, I don’t want homeless people in my backyard. I don’t want drug addicts.”
Rosie Tran: “I don’t want the riff-raff.” That’s what they say, “I don’t want the riff-raff. I don’t want to help people become better and become part of society. I just want to stigmatize them.”
BJ Mendelson: We’re really good at that as Americans. We’re good at saying we’re for things. But then when it comes time to actually do something, we have one excuse or another not to do it.So that’s definitely something we’ve seen with both treating drugs and homelessness.
LSD: Everyone Over 40 Should Try It Once
Rosie Tran: Well, I want to hear about your LSD research and the book that you read because I definitely am pro hallucinogenics. I think that drugs can be helpful if used correctly, and right now what they’re doing is a lot of people are using drugs to numb emotional pain and self-medicate. I think that’s not good.
I think part of that is that there’s, as you talked about, empathy. But a lot of emotional intelligence is not taught in high school and in elementary school, and people don’t really have those tools to cope with life.
BJ Mendelson: It’s true. It’s proven that there is a correlation between the economic fallout of the recession in particular along the Rust Belt and opioid addiction. The people that we tend to think of as Trump voters are more likely statistically to be hooked on opioids or know someone in their family that’s hooked on it. So there’s definitely a lot going on that needs to be unpacked.
Rosie Tran: Okay. Let’s hear about what you read in your research and your inference. Listeners, I have no idea what BJ is going to say. I have no idea if he even agrees with anything that I’m going to say. This is a thought experiment right here.
BJ Mendelson: Let me backup. I should be clear, I have not tried LSD yet. The research would certainly indicate that I’m a candidate. That’s something that I found in there. Originally, when they had first stumbled because they stumbled across it. When they had stumbled across LSD and other hallucinogenics, they found that if you suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I have all three of those things, but also addiction that treatment through LSD is statistically more likely to stop that or at least curb it.
Rosie Tran: I’ve heard the same of ayahuasca. I don’t know if they have the same… Ayahuasca is a natural, indigenous root from South America, I think Peru. They boil it, and it’s hallucinogenic. I have actually experimented. I don’t have any, thank god, history of addiction or addictive personality. But I do have other things as the state of being human. But I have heard that ayahuasca users that are alcoholics lose their taste for alcohol.
BJ Mendelson: That’s right. That’s something that they’ve found with the LSD research. Really anything in the family of hallucinogenic except for MDMA which is a separate thing that sometimes we pack together with those. Yeah.
Rosie Tran: Is that ecstasy?
BJ Mendelson: Yeah.
Rosie Tran: Yeah.
BJ Mendelson: They get crazy, the researchers, when you call it ecstasy.
Rosie Tran: Got it.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, they’re very down on the whole calling them party drug or the street name ecstasy. They’re very clear, “This is LSD. This is MDMA. They’re very separate things.” But yeah. Anything in the hallucinogenic family, they found if you suffer from any of those conditions or alcoholism, there’s a high rate of success in treating it.
Rosie Tran: Well, isn’t that the source of LSD and all these other hallucinogenic drugs was that the government was testing it in the ‘70s? Wasn’t that the source of a lot of it?
BJ Mendelson: No. Okay, so there were two things going on. When I say we, I mean the scientific community of which I am not a part of.
Rosie Tran: But I like to say we. We’re part of it.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, I think so. I like to pretend that I’m part of the scientific community. But they had been researching LSD in particular along with some of the other ones since 1944, ’45.
Parallel to what they were researching, the CIA in the late ’60s and ’70s had a program called MKUltra. I know this sounds like science fiction, but I promise you there are just tons of books on that. I mean actual books, not crazy people books. An actual publisher went through the book creation process with those authors.
Rosie Tran: Yeah, like Simon & Schuster and Penguin. Okay, people?
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, actual publishers. Having gone through a legal review process, I can vouch for having lawyers check every little thing and make sure it’s true.
Rosie Tran: So you don’t get sued for libel, right?
BJ Mendelson: Exactly. There was this thing called MKUltra. Basically, the CIA wanted to see if you could manipulate people or use this as a truth serum if you give them LSD. And so currently, we’re doing-
Rosie Tran: Is it for torture purposes?
BJ Mendelson: No. They wanted to see if they could brainwash you, see if it was more like a truth serum kind of thing. It wasn’t so much to torture people because they figured out real quick that the effect of these drugs is not torture.
Rosie Tran: No, no, no. Not torture as far as torturing people for pain but torturing to get information. Hey, if I give you LSD, you’re going to give me all the info instead of waterboarding and other things which have been proven actually gives false answers.
BJ Mendelson: Right. Yeah. That was definitely the aim of the program was if I give you a hallucinogenic, would you be more susceptible? It’s certainly true. One of the things that-
Rosie Tran: Sorry, I didn’t mean torture like taking out teeth torture. I meant to get information, for informational purposes. Because they’ve proven that pulling out someone’s fingernails and ripping their hair out and waterboarding them actually makes people lie because they just will say anything to get it to stop.
BJ Mendelson: That’s right. Yeah. It’s not to say that doesn’t work all the time, but it’s certainly rare that it works. So it’s more likely someone will just tell you what you want to hear to get you to go away. These two things converge on each other were all of a sudden the politicians who didn’t like the hippies and realized that they could run against the hippies to get themselves elected, mostly Republicans, suddenly just went sour on LSD.
There was this golden age between 1944 and the end of the 60s where it was totally okay for the government to fund research and for psychotherapists also to fund research into these different things.
Then all of a sudden, it became fashionable to hate on it. And so they pulled the funding and started to frame LSD as this bad thing we think of today. So that’s a really condensed version of what happened here. You’re talking about like 40 years of history.
Rosie Tran: I feel like you and I have done a similar amount of research on this topic, but the way that you word it sounds so much more professional and smarter. Whereas I sound like a Valley girl. I’m like, “I read this book, and it says this and that.” Listening to you, I’m like, “Wow. BJ, you really sound very professorial.”
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, that’s my trick. If I can make myself sound smart, then I can skate by and do what I need to do with a minimal amount of actual effort. But yeah. This seems true with marijuana as well where we went through this period of, “Oh. Hey, there’s this stuff and it produces this effect. We’re interested.” Then, “Oh yeah, let’s research it.” Because it became fashionable to demonize it through Reefer Madness, we wound up in this state that we have today where you’re still…
I don’t live in New York City, I live in Orange County, which is a little less than an hour from Manhattan.
And here in Orange County, there is a huge fight because New York state plans to legalize recreational marijuana. We have a Republican district attorney, and so he is adamantly opposed to selling marijuana within the county. So what’s going to happen in New York is that depending on where you live will define your access to marijuana because you still got people that believe it’s bad for you, it produces all these awful effects, and you just shouldn’t do it.
Depression & Drugs
Rosie Tran: Now, I want to talk about a couple of things that you mentioned, if you don’t mind. The first thing that you mentioned was you were talking about the opioid crisis and depression. This is something that I did research on that I wanted to share with the listeners that there was a study, a rat study done.
BJ Mendelson: Oh, I think I know what this is going to be about.
Rosie Tran: Yes. In the rat study, they were giving the rats drugs. They noticed that deprivation created addiction. The original story happened because most people get addicted to opioids when they have some type of injury.
So they’ll have an injury, they’ll go to the ER, they’ll go to the doctor for surgery, and they’ll be prescribed opioids. What they noticed before they started the rat study was that some people became addicted to opioids and some people didn’t. And so it wasn’t that the opioid is addictive. Because if something is an extremely addictive substance, everyone would get addicted. But some people took the opioids as prescribed per their pain medication, and then they were able to get off of it and not be addicted.
The rat study that they did showed that when rats had depression, they became more addicted.
If the rats had food and everything and there was no competition, that they became less addicted. So the correlation that they made was that if you’re coming from a space of depression, if you’re isolated which happens a lot when people become emotionally isolated, if you have trauma, then you’re more likely to become addicted to opioids.
It’s not opioids themselves that are addictive. This is the same as alcoholism and other drugs, like heroin. If you are exposed to this type of drug and you have a healthy family background and you feel connected to your community, then you’re less likely to become addicted than if you feel isolated.
This happens a lot with veterans that return from the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is that they become extremely addicted because they feel that sense of isolation. On a random side note, Israel actually has the lowest rate of PTSD because there is no military isolation because everyone is required to sign up for the Israeli army.
BJ Mendelson: I think it’s two years of national service.
Rosie Tran: Yeah, two years of service. Those veterans do not feel isolated whereas our military in the US it’s not a draft, it’s not mandatory. So, people, don’t feel connected to the general society when they return because a lot of people can’t relate to military service. I just wanted to touch on what you mentioned earlier about opioids. That was one thing. So I don’t know if you want to respond, and then I have another thing.
BJ Mendelson: Okay. There’s a book. It’s called Dying for a Paycheck. It’s by a Stanford University professor. He said that there are high incidences of people who if they’re out of work… In most cases in the United States, we’re not out of work. We’re underemployed. We’re working three jobs but just not making enough to pay the rent.
Rosie Tran: We will get to this with the basic income and automation episode. Stay tuned.
BJ Mendelson: What I like about this show, everything we talk about is linked together which I think is really cool. That’s something that he [the professor] found was that there was a higher rate among markers of depression and opioid addiction, particularly people that are underemployed or unemployed when it came to things like fentanyl and Oxycontin and things like that.
There is definitely this underpinning of what’s your social connection like and how strong it is. In the United States, particularly in a workplace culture where we have this BS where we tell people we’re a team and not a family, which is the infamous line from Patty McCord at Netflix. Oh, which a lot of Silicon Valley startups copied. It’s every man for himself. You really can’t make friends at work, and you’re isolated.
We know now that workplace management directly impacts people’s drug use. One of the things that they point out in Dying for a Paycheck is that we lose about 120,000 people per year to basically workplace neglect and social pollution caused by bad management of the workplace. That number is made worse by the correlation they found with opioid addiction.
The best thing that you could really advise anybody if you know anyone that’s struggling, obviously, is to get help. In my case, I have a very addictive nature. So taking any of these substances is a very bad idea for someone like me. But what we do know is that if you’re able to strengthen your bonds or your community, you’re at least less likely-
Rosie Tran: Your social connections. Yes, yes.
BJ Mendelson: -to be addicted to these things.
Rosie Tran: That is very important. Strengthening your social connections, not becoming isolated. Because when you do become isolated, the addiction becomes stronger. It’s like an abusive boyfriend. He wants you to get away from your friends and family. Also, being around friends and family is a way to be held accountable, I think. And feel that connection, which that lack of connection is what is fueling the addiction.
BJ Mendelson: I don’t know if you saw this, but there… I want to say it was in The Week or Time. I know it was one of the two because those are the only two that I read where they were talking about the epidemic of loneliness in the United States, particularly among Baby Boomers. They’re finding that there might be a correlation between this epidemic of baby boomers getting older and being isolated and negative drug usage. So there’s definitely smoke where there’s fire on that one.
Rosie Tran: Yes. Well, you mentioned something as well that I wanted to address about being in Orange County, New York, and a conservative… Did you say mayor or-
BJ Mendelson: District attorney.
Facts vs. Reality
Rosie Tran: District attorney. Okay. This seems to be a little bit split on party lines, and I think it’s a ridiculous thing because it’s a medical issue and it’s also a social issue that affects everyone despite your political affiliation. This podcast is called Rosie & BJ Save The World. So I want to propose how our current policies and public policies are just not helping to solve the problem and what suggestions we would recommend to any policymakers that are listening. I think that we need to, first and foremost, decriminalize drug addiction which has been criminalized in this country.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, I totally agree with that. We have 40 years of data that suggests that criminalizing drug usage is the wrong way to go. It may score points in…
Orange County in New York is a particularly red district, so it’s very popular to say you’re tough on crime here. But we just know through…
The thing that I like about this show is that we’re focused on facts on data and science, and we have to research to say this is the right way to treat these things and this is the wrong way. We’ve clearly been doing it the wrong way.
Rosie Tran: That’s what I love about this Portugal example. I believe that the prime minister was conservative and he said, “I don’t care.” He said, “Left, right. I don’t care. I’m going to get together the top scientists in the country. I just want to solve the problem. And whatever the problem is, if it’s left or right, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to do what the science says.”
I actually think that this is a great idea. I’m not sure why this century at such a modern age, we haven’t just said, “Hey, let’s get the top people in the world. Every government, every scientist, let’s just do what works. Everyone in the world, let’s adopt just what works. It doesn’t matter.”
BJ Mendelson: True. Yeah, we tried that with the Kyoto Protocol. We tried that with the Paris Climate Accord.
BJ Mendelson: We’ve pulled out. I think the issue really does come down to empathy. I know it’s a Marianne Williamson kind of answer. She’s a crazy lady.
I don’t want to make it sound like it’s something crazy really or your crazy aunt would say. But it’s true that certainly if you’re able to distance yourself and say this is criminal behavior and we punish criminals and then that’s how we do things, you get locked in that mindset and you’re not open to, “Oh. Hey, these people were actually suffering.” I think that the important thing is to show…
Well, I think the media has done a decent job in the past year of showing the opioid crisis on the news, books like Empire of Pain, and shows like “Dopesick” of, “Oh no, this is really ripping families apart.” I think we need more of that because if we can do that, then we can at least get people like what will happen in Portugal where they’re saying, “Okay, it’s not a political thing. It’s a people thing. We need to help the people and put the politics aside.”
Rosie Tran: Yes, it is a people thing. I think most of the social issues that are out there today that need to be solved are not political, and they’ve become politicized because of certain people’s personal agendas or certain parties’ personal agendas. Full disclosure, I’m an independent.
I have been registered from everything as a libertarian to a socialist to Green Party. So I would not say that I affiliate with any specific political party. I have opinions on the right and the left and the middle and the back and the top.
To me, I am like that Portugal prime minister. I just want to do what works. I don’t care about left, right. What works. Let’s do what works. That’s it.
It’s like it seems like it should be common sense, but unfortunately, people have their own beliefs in it. Not only is empathy important, which you talked about, I think we need to teach belief systems because I would say that the majority of people that I speak to in my everyday life, but it was also a joke in the movie Inside Out. But they still confuse fact and opinion. I think belief and fact are still very much confused for most people.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. I’ve been researching Gen Z for about almost two years now for a book I’m ghostwriting, and one of the things that’s troubling-
Rosie Tran: Wait a minute. What’s Gen Z? I know the different generations, but give me the exact age estimate.
BJ Mendelson: If you were born after 1993, you would be a member of Gen Z and you would-
Rosie Tran: Are Gen Z past Millennials?
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. This is the generation behind you and me. We’re Millennials, and then the generation behind us is Gen Z.
Rosie Tran: I feel like I’m too old to be a Millennial. I feel like when I think of a Millennial, I think of a 25-year-old. But I think I’m at the edge. We’re at the edge?
BJ Mendelson: Okay. This is aside. Remember the words for-profit prisons, and I promise I’ll circle back to my point.
Rosie Tran: Okay.
BJ Mendelson: Okay. This is a thing that-
Rosie Tran: Okay, can we talk about Gen Z research before you offer the side tangent?
BJ Mendelson: The thing we found in Gen Z is that they are not very good at critical thinking. They’re not taught in school, in particular, how to separate fact from opinion and what’s behind that opinion. Was that opinion funded by research from a-
Rosie Tran: Or emotions.
BJ Mendelson: Right. Or was it just someone that was angry that… We don’t teach them critical thinking skills at all, so you got a large number then that will go to college and you’ve got…
When you watch the news, sometimes you’ll see upset college students over one thing or another either rightfully or wrongfully. They might be upset. Or you hear things about trigger warnings and things of that nature. Those things come from a good place. It’s well-intentioned. But it also comes from the kids not being trained to function properly within a classroom because we’re so focused on outcomes of tests and not teaching students how to think.
That’s not a political point, that’s a people point. You get kids that will get upset when they hear something, but they won’t stop and process that thing critically.
And so we have this issue now where both the media and politicians on both sides will state something and will make it look like it’s a fact. But it’s not, because they know a lot of people don’t think critically about what’s being said. They’ll just go along with it.
Rosie Tran: Well, I have a two-question rule. So if you can’t answer within two questions why you believe something, then you’re basically brainwashed. It’s a belief or an opinion, and it’s not a fact. I usually do two questions deep. I’ll say, “Well, why do you think that way?” Then the person will give their opinion or their idea. Then I’ll say, “Okay. Well, where did you get that information? Why did you get that?” Sometimes people get really flustered. If they come up with a comment like, “Well, that’s just how things are.” Or, “That’s what I…” That means it’s a belief or opinion and not a fact.
BJ Mendelson: The United States is founded on opinion, going before the structure of the constitution and way back to when you had the Puritans here. It was all opinion-based. We’ve been really good at creating… I think there’s a book called Fantasyland. The author does a great job of encapsulating this concept.
Rosie Tran: Well, I think opinion is very important. I think beliefs are very important because a belief really can control you. There are people out there who believe if they go out and commit murder, they’re going to be rewarded in the afterlife with XYZ.
So belief is really powerful. It’s crazy powerful because it really shapes your life and your viewpoint. But I also think it’s very important for people to understand what are beliefs and what are facts. I think that that has been lost quite a bit, actually.
BJ Mendelson: You see that with drugs in particular, why is this thing bad? Well, because someone told you it was bad. There’s a lot of people that stop and read the books that we’ve read or do the research into things like LSD and the effects it can have on obsessive-compulsive disorder or addiction. That knowledge is not there. They’ve just been told this stuff is bad. Therefore, it’s bad.
Rosie Tran: Exactly what I mentioned in the very first few minutes of the podcast with it sounds counterintuitive to give a drug addict more drugs. But hey, let’s look at the data. I think that’s very important because there seems to be a war against intellectualism and a war against…
There’s a lot of talking heads and craziness and let’s say the most outrageous thing we can in media just to get clicks or to get watched. That’s very frustrating for someone like me who likes to do the research. Hey, what do the facts say? What does the data say? Let’s do that.
BJ Mendelson: I’m boring, and I get my stuff from C-SPAN, as dry and dull as it is. I actually like to watch that and form my own opinions as opposed to watching something like CNN where they’re going to give you their opinion one way or the other. It’s not just mainstream media.
I think there are those crazy white supremacist sites like Breitbart which are certainly not mainstream media, but they’re out there giving their opinion and making money through Google Display Advertising. So we have crazy media and mainstream media, and I just think all of it is bad.
Rosie Tran: Well, that’s the issue I have because I feel like the world is such a duality. There’s always a positive and a negative. So one of the amazing positives of the internet is that it’s democratized this information. Someone like me and you can say, “Hey, we want to start a podcast to give people information.” Anyone can do anything. That’s both the positive and the negative of the internet is that now you don’t have to be ABC, CBS, or NBC.
There were only three channels before to get information out there. But the negative is that literally, anyone can do it. And so there’s so much misinformation.
There’s so much out-of-the-box and amazing information that you wouldn’t get in the mainstream, but there’s also so much crap. Again, every positive has it’s negative and that’s with the internet. But I want to go back to you mentioned prisons, and you wanted to say something regarding that.
BJ Mendelson: Oh yeah. We’re talking about how do we solve these problems, particularly with drugs? The first thing that jumps out to me is getting the money out of the prison system. This concept of-
Rosie Tran: Yes, the private prisons and the prisons for profit.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. That, to me, is mind-boggling how that even… I don’t even know how that happened. That’s something that I’ve wanted to research and really dig deeper into. But that’s the first thing. If there’s someone making money on incarceration, that needs to stop immediately. That’s not a thing that a private company should do.
They’ve talked about what happens when you close these private prisons, you find the incarceration rate magically goes down. Who knew? That’s the first thing. We talked about why some of these things are illegal in the first place. If you really trace it back, it goes back to well, someone makes money on prison and people-
Rosie Tran: That are sick. That are mentally sick or suffering from loneliness or depression or other mental health issues. So I agree with you. I think that decriminalization is the number one step to ending the war on drugs. Then I would say more research and just let’s do what works. Hey, if giving drug addicts in a safe environment…
There’s a magazine that my friend is involved with called ILLEGAL! magazine. Have you heard of it?
BJ Mendelson: No, I have not.
Rosie Tran: It’s called ILLEGAL! magazine, and it’s in some of the… I don’t know if they’re called Nordic. Denmark, Sweden, what does that area refer to?
BJ Mendelson: We can call them Nordic.
Rosie Tran: They’re the Nordic countries? Yeah. The magazine is called ILLEGAL! magazine, and it’s written by drug addicts. They sell the magazine to get money for their clean drug and needle supplies. Then they use in a clean environment, and that decreases the spread of diseases like HIV and other needle-sharing… Why am I blanking? On things that cause disease among drug users. Also, the articles spread awareness about drug use and safe drug use. That has also decreased addiction and also disease and death and overdose.
BJ Mendelson: I think that’s fantastic. That goes back to the empathy thing, too. Is there given a platform where they share this? Although it’s certainly true that anyone could do a podcast or anyone could put in on a magazine, you have a glass ceiling.
There are only so many moves you can make until either A, you need to spend a bunch of money to break through that ceiling. Or B, you know someone who knows someone that can elevate you past the ceiling. While that’s true, it’s certainly great to have a platform like that and get it out there and talk about it so that it gets past that glass ceiling so more people can find it. Can I give you a completely crazy town suggestion?
Rosie Tran: Sure. Why not? We’re trying to save the world here.
BJ’s Crazy Idea
BJ Mendelson: It’s not a legislative prescription although they would have to certainly take LSD and make it no longer a category one drug. The thing I’ve come across over and over again since the 1940s that they’ve said is that if you are over 40 years old, you should take LSD at least once. You should do it in a safe setting. I want to be clear, they’re not saying…
What happened in the ’60s is you had Timothy Leary who was a con man, but the media latched on to him as a spokesperson for LSD. They used him as an example of what happens when crazy people get a microphone and then tell you, “Everyone should take LSD, and everyone should change your consciousness.”
I’m not saying that. What I am saying now is that we found in the research increase in empathy in people over 40 because I guess what happens is, neurologically, you form a heuristic every day. If I’m thirsty, I’m going to go down to the refrigerator and get a bottle of water. Because I can’t drink the water in my house because it’s poison.
I have a heuristic in place. So I’ll get up, go downstairs, get the bottle of water. What happens after you turn 40 is those mental processes harden, and it becomes very difficult for new ideas and new viewpoints to-
Rosie Tran: Can you get a little stubborn? This is a scientific way of saying you get a little stubborn and set in your ways.
BJ Mendelson: What they suggest and what Timothy Leary poorly worded was there’s a suggestion among some in the psychotherapy community that if you’re over the age of 40 and within a safe setting, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to try LSD.
Rosie Tran: It opens you up.
BJ Mendelson: Exactly. I know some people will get really crazy and talk about how the world is one collective consciousness, and that’s something I believe. But that’s not for everybody. So we’re not talking about that. We’re just talking about opening people up a bit. Because I think what you’ll find is a lot of the NIMBY stuff that goes towards treating the homeless and treating people who are sick or mentally ill or suffer from addiction, a lot of that will go away.
I think we can open people up with LSD and solve a lot of these problems we’re discussing.
Rosie Tran: I think that’s a great idea. I don’t think that’s completely wild. I think that everyone should, in a safe environment, try to experience something that might be mind-altering.
I also think decriminalization, as we mentioned, is very important. And also, as you said, defunding for-profit prisons. To answer your question, the way that that did happen is because the government was underfunded. So they started outsourcing to private prison companies to help with costs.
That, obviously, turned into a business. When something is a business, people want to get profits. Then lobbyists got involved. As we know, when something becomes lobbied for, there’s a shift in our political system towards that system or that model.
BJ Mendelson: That’s a classic Republican tactic too. The trick is to defund the government and say, “Oh, we can’t pay for it.” and then farm it out to someone who donated to their campaign. I used to be Republican, and that was one of the things that chased me away from…
Rosie Tran: From the party, yeah.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, well… that and the white supremacy. I noticed early on that there was this strain of racism in the GOP, and that pushed me away. But also seeing stuff like this go on and on was enough to make me go, “All right, this part is not for me.”
Rosie Tran: I would also like to put forth another idea that would help with the drug problem. I think all of these are really great ideas, but I also think that mental health is such an important thing. Something that happened in…
It wasn’t Robert Kennedy. It was JFK. I was like, “It was one of the Kennedys.” JFK actually did it, and he did it on accident because he was planning on implementing another policy and then he was assassinated. So he defunded and took apart the mental… In the ’50s and ’60s, we’ve all heard or seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, that’s true.
Rosie Tran: We had these mental health facilities, these state-run mental health facilities. Unfortunately, because of our lack of knowledge about psychology, they were very abusive because we didn’t really understand that much about mental health.
There was electric shock therapy and all these abuses. The mental health system, JFK passed a law that took them apart. Then Ronald Reagan completely defunded them. So from that period, these state-run mental health facilities were completely destroyed and defunded.
Before you could commit someone who was severely mentally ill or get them into these hospitals or these homes. This created the homeless population, the huge homeless population, or helped to create. It also helped to create…
Basically, they’ve been funneled from the state-run mental health hospitals into prisons now. That’s what’s happened.
What I would recommend is a new model for state-run and state-funded mental health facilities now that we have the knowledge about psychology that we didn’t have in the ’50s. But that whole arena has been completely defunded. There are few mental hospitals anymore.
There are few mental health institutions in this country. And so I would recommend that being refunded but refunded now with new programs now that we have more information.
Fortunately, I actually know a lot about the mental health community because of the mentally ill people in my family. What we did from the ’50s to now is we’ve gone the other extreme.
Before you could take away a mentally ill person’s rights, you could just have them put into the mental hospital, sign away their rights. They had no rights. So now we’ve gone to the far end of the extreme, and they actually have too many rights. I know that sounds crazy for someone like me who’s a libertarian-thinking person.
It’s true because if someone is mentally ill, you cannot force them to get help unless the only caveats are unless they are a harm to themselves or someone else if they threaten to kill themselves or threaten to kill another person. But now they have too many rights, and that is causing…
I’m part of NAMI which is the national association of the mentally ill, and we are advocating… Because when you’re extremely mentally ill like that, and I’m not talking about someone who just has depression.
I’m talking about someone who’s talking to themselves in the street barefoot. You actually cannot have them commit BJ unless they threaten to kill themselves or someone else. And so that is something that we are working on to try to change. I think that would also help with the drug addiction and drug problems, is funding these mental health facilities.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, no, I just wanted to jump in with… My friend works at a facility that’s state-run but fully underfunded. One of the things that-
Rosie Tran: They’re terribly underfunded.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. One of the things that happened in New York… I don’t know if it was a Supreme Court case in New York state or it was just the federal Supreme Court. But they said the mentally ill had to be put in the least restrictive environment. And so Governor Cuomo used that as an excuse to basically shut down as many of the psychiatric centers that he could, my sister’s is one of the few surviving ones, then take all those people that were getting help within those institutions basically to throw them out onto the street.
That’s what’s happened in New York City with the homeless population is that since that court decision, you have a direct correlation between the governor closing these institutions and then the homeless population surging in New York City with a lot of people who are just not getting the help that they need.
Rosie Tran: Yes, that’s what’s happening in LA too. If you have a mental breakdown or some type of mental situation, you’ll be put on 5150. You’ll be arrested. You’ll go into psychiatric care in an emergency room, and then they will dump you on Skid Row in downtown LA which is where the majority of the homeless issue is in the Los Angeles area. But it’s spreading all over the county. It’s pretty crazy. I really think to solve this drug problem, it needs to be holistic…
It’s not just one answer, basically. Wouldn’t it be great if lies were that easy, BJ? It’s not a one-answer thing, and all of these things that we are talking about are extremely connected.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, that’s very true. One thing I would point out is I guess if there is one answer, it would be just funding if I had to boil that down into one thing.
If you look at what we spend on the military versus what we spend on mental health, it’s outrageous. That’s nothing against not funding the military. I think it should be funded. But we definitely have more than enough money for them. I think that’s the thing I want to get at is we…
I talk about UBI, and you talk about UBI. There’s always someone who’s like, “Oh, we can’t pay for it.” It just makes me crazy.
Rosie Tran: There’s so much money. There’s so much money. There’s so much wasted money which I think is why I’m such a UBI supporter, but we’ll get to that in another episode, is that a lot of the programs that we use are being underfunded or we’re funding programs that are completely nonsensical.
When I went on my USO tour as a stand-up comedian performing for the troops, I spoke to so many members of the military who said that there was so much military waste and financial waste in the military. Because the way that we do things, again, which makes no sense whatsoever, is that if people get allocated a certain amount of budget and if they don’t use up that budget…
Say, they get 100 million. They only use up 80 million. The governments like, “Well, you didn’t use this 20 million. So we’re going to take it away from you.” which is ridiculous. You’re basically being punished for being financially and fiscally responsible.
What happens is they try to spend as much money as possible so that they can get the same budget next year. There’s a huge amount of waste, and it’s ridiculous. And so we have so much money in the US, and it’s just wasted on areas that it doesn’t need to be wasted in. We fund these programs that are trying to max out their budgets every year so that they can get more budgetary money the next year, and it’s crazy.
Does Money Solve Every Problem?
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, I could think of a certain president that costs us at least $340 million on golf trips. $340 million there that we could have easily spent on something else. Yeah. I think if I had to boil it down to one thing, it would be just funding and getting our priorities straight.
Rosie Tran: I think funding is important. But, again, we don’t want to throw money where it doesn’t need to be thrown as I mentioned with the budgeting. I think priorities are so important. Again, as I said, there’s a positive and negative to everything.
The positive of a democracy is that everyone gets an opinion and a voice, and the negative is that it creates this bureaucracy and there are so many different voices and lobbyists and opinions and constituents. Actually, the most effective and efficient form of government is a dictatorship. It is because there’s only one person making all the decisions, so stuff gets done. But it’s the least free, so there’s a pro and con to every form of government.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. I forgot what I was… A lot of research I was doing for another ghostwriting book was about management practices, and they found that again and again the socialist idea of planning things, the five-year plan just does not work. Because it creates nothing but excess. When you were talking about the dictator, I was thinking about that as well.
Rosie Tran: It’s true. If you think about the most efficient form of government, it’s a dictatorship. One person gives an order, everyone has to listen. It’s very efficient. Democracy is very inefficient because you have constituents, you have lobbyists, you have different areas that need to be represented. And so it’s very inefficient because everyone’s opinion is taken into account. But it’s the freest.
That’s what I talked about when I mentioned earlier in this podcast about life is a duality. So there’s never an answer, and it’s all about finding that balance because if one side…
I don’t want to say wins because I don’t think life is a zero-sum game. But if one side gets more, another side suffers. That’s that pro and con. That’s why it’s so hard to solve the world’s problems, which is what we’re trying to do.
BJ Mendelson: The fundamental problem with being a human is that we’re hardwired to ask, “Where’s mine?” If I don’t get mine, then they can’t get theirs.
Rosie Tran: Yes, it’s that zero-sum mentality, that win-lose mentality.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. I think that’s one of the key things at least I’ve been working on is just trying to break people out of that.
Rosie Tran: Yes, that’s amazing. Okay, any more solutions for solving the war on drugs? I think we need to have a radical shift in our thinking. I think if you don’t know that much about drug addiction, you should get educated because it’s not as simple as, “Hey, these people are drug addicts. They’re bad.” It’s way more complicated than that.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. I guess the only other thing I would add is I’m optimistic in that we’ve figured out that if we frame this stuff as not recreation but as medically useful, that tends to lower people’s boundaries and guards a bit.
That’s how marijuana paved the way to becoming almost nationalized was if you suffer from migraines as I do, there were a number of studies that came out and said, “Smoking marijuana could actually treat a migraine.” So that’s how we got to where we are today with marijuana. I think in terms of legalization for everything else, there’s just not enough people out there that are banging that drum saying-
Rosie Tran: Did you see that documentary? I know you don’t like CNN, but I think it was on CNN where they followed that girl with epilepsy–
BJ Mendelson: No, I did not see that.
Rosie Tran: -and THC. They followed a young girl with epilepsy. I believe she was in a neighboring state to Colorado, but I can’t recall which state. She had to go to Colorado to get her THC, and it really helped her epilepsy so much.
She had these horrible seizures, and the THC was the only thing that worked on her. Her mother was advocating for legalization because it was the only thing that worked on her. I do believe that medical marijuana works, and I think it’s amazing because it’s natural.
I do think the pharmaceutical industry is trying to shut it down. I just think it’s ridiculous that alcohol and cigarettes are legal, but something that’s natural is illegal. And also there’s some history you mentioned, Reefer Madness. There’s some history with the cotton lobby, actually, from the early 1900s lobbying against hemp. Some of the anti-marijuana bills was due to the hemp people.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah. That, to me, is one of those crazy things about American history. It also shows you that a lot of us like to point at the government today and say it’s dysfunctional. But all this really started in the 1880s, 1890s. Once the Civil War was over, what had happened was the north and south, the business community made this deal of, “If you ever sell our goods in the south, we’ll let you [Racist White Southerners] have a voice in government.” which is why we had segregation and Jim Crow and all that for as long as we did.
It was a business decision. But another outgrowth of that relationship was that the businesses now also had a voice politically, and that’s where you got things like the lobby tax.
Rosie Tran: That’s where lobbying came from.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah.
Rosie Tran: Yeah, that’s crazy. I think lobbying isn’t bad if you’re lobbying for a good cause. But if you’re lobbying just for your profits, and this is coming from a capitalist. I call myself a conscious capitalist though.
BJ Mendelson: Which is great. I think that there’s a lot of… Patagonia is a shining example of a company that’s… It’s a capitalist company, but they are very conscious about what they do and how they invest their money, and how they treat their employees. They think that they’re the model for-
Rosie Tran: Oh yeah. It’s like that, too. I think it’s a lot of outdoorsy people.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, yeah. I forget his name, but the guy who runs Patagonia wrote a book called Let My People Go Surfing. We’re definitely talking about outdoorsy people there.
Yeah. I think that that’s all I had. Did you have anything else you wanted to add on legalizing drugs?
Rosie Tran: I think it should be legal. I think we need to work on our mental health facilities and I think solving and decriminalizing it. As you said, the for-profit prisons need to go.
Then I also think that stopping this drug crisis is another reason decriminalization works is because right now because of criminalization we’re funding the Mexican Mafia is another big thing that no one really talks about is that the US government is inadvertently funding these drug cartels in Mexico and South America because it’s illegal. By legalizing, a lot of people will say, “Well, I don’t want crime to increase.”
Again, it sounds very counterintuitive. But by legalizing drugs, you’re actually making crime go down because the crime is being created from these illegal mafias in South America and Mexico because they can… It’s just like prohibition. When alcohol was illegal, the mafia had its heyday.
It’s already been proven with… It’s like, “Why are we repeating the same mistakes with drugs?” I really think decriminalization is going to make crime go down, and also you can collect money on it. Let’s get taxes on heroin, let’s get taxes on marijuana. And take that money and use it for mental health and education.
BJ Mendelson: Yeah, that’s been a big fight in New York about the legalization of marijuana is who gets the money. But yeah. If you look at Colorado and some of the other states, it’s legalized. They’ve invested that money back into schools and infrastructure, so we know demonstrably that this isn’t effective to fund the government.
Rosie Tran: Let’s talk about safety, too. If you buy a street drug on the street, it’s cut with all sorts of rat poison. This is why those Use Rooms in Portugal are so important because they’re giving people pure heroin.
What Chasing the Scream talks about is that when you’re buying street drugs, you’re getting it mixed with rat poison. You’re getting it mixed with baking soda, you’re getting it mixed with things. When you see a drug addict that has sores all over their body and all sorts of things, it’s not from the heroin.
It’s from what’s being cut inside of the heroin to make it cheap and profitable to these drug dealers. Giving people pure drugs actually decreases drug usage and helps them heal.
BJ Mendelson: The only thing that we’ll miss… I can’t name names, but a friend of a friend happens to move marijuana. The thing that we’ll miss about legalizing stuff is some of the quirky nature of having a dealer.
Rosie Tran: The fun drug dealers?
BJ Mendelson: Just from a comedy writing respect. Yeah. We’ll miss the fun drug deals, but other than that, I’m all for it.