Short argument for vending machines full of experimental drugs

So I was thinking the other day about medication and Marilyn Manson’s “I don’t like the drugs but the drugs like me,” and it occurred to me that illegal drugs, generally speaking, are really good at what they do.

By contrast, take anti-depressants. Even the “really good” ones have abominable track records. Maybe a good drug works for 10, 20% of the population–but you don’t know which. Depressed people just have to keep trying different pills until they find one that works better than placebo.

Meanwhile, you’ll never hear someone say “Oh, yeah, crack just doesn’t do anything for me.” Crack works. Heroin works. Sure, they’ll fuck you up, but they work.

Illegal drugs are tried and tested in the almost-free black market of capitalism, where people do whatever they want with them–grind them up, snort them, inject them, put them up their buts–and stop taking them whenever they stop working. As a result, illegal drugs are optimized for being highly addictive, yes, but also for working really well. And through trial and error, people have figured out how much they need, how best to take it, and how often for the optimal effects.

In other words, simply letting lots of people mess around with drugs results in really effective drugs.

The downside to the black-free-market refinement of drugs is that lots of people die in the process.

Most people don’t want to be killed by an experimental anti-depressant, (is that ironic? That seems kind of ironic,) so it makes sense to have safeguards in place to make sure that their latest incarnations won’t send you into cardiac arrest, but many medications are intended for people whose lives are otherwise over. People with alzheimer’s, pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma, ALS, fatal familial insomnia, etc, are going to die. (Especially the ones with fatal familial insomnia. I mean, it’s got “fatal” in the name.) They have been handed death sentences and they know it, so their only possible hope is to speed up drug/treatment development as much as possible.

I am quite certain that something similar to what I am proposing already exists in some form. I am just proposing that we ramp it up: all patients with essentially incurable death sentences have access to whatever experimental drugs (or non-experimental drugs) they  want, with a few obvious caveats about price–but really, price tends to come down with increased demand, so just stock everything in vending machines and charge 75c a dose.

Of course, the end result might just be that alzheimer’s meds come to closely resemble heroin, but hey, at least sick people will feel better as they die.

Since this is a short post, let me append a quick description of fatal familial insomnia: 

Fatal insomnia is a rare disorder that results in trouble sleeping.[2] The problems sleeping typically start out gradually and worsen over time.[3] Other symptoms may include speech problems, coordination problems, and dementia.[4][5] It results in death within a few months to a few years.[2]

It is a prion disease of the brain.[2] It is usually caused by a mutation to the protein PrPC.[2] It has two forms: fatal familial insomnia (FFI), which is autosomal dominant and sporadic fatal insomnia (sFI) which is due to a noninherited mutation. Diagnosis is based on a sleep studyPET scan, and genetic testing.[1]

Fatal insomnia has no known cure and involves progressively worsening insomnia, which leads to hallucinations, delirium, confusional states like that of dementia, and eventually death.[6] The average survival time from onset of symptoms is 18 months.[6] The first recorded case was an Italian man, who died in Venice in 1765.[7]



9 thoughts on “Short argument for vending machines full of experimental drugs

  1. Years ago I met a woman who told me that she had severe insomnia and could not sleep without drugs. She said the doctors had put her in a sleep lab once to see what would happen if she did not use sleeping pills, whether she would eventually sleep. After about two weeks of no sleep she went completely psychotic and they had to stop the experiment. Maybe she had this prion disease and perhaps the doctors at the time were not able to diagnose it. Or possibly it was something else altogether. I also knew someone who had the opposite problem, narcolepsy, which causes uncontrollable episodes of falling to sleep during the day. Severely disabling, as he was unable to work, drive a car, etc.


  2. “Meanwhile, you’ll never hear someone say “Oh, yeah, crack just doesn’t do anything for me.” Crack works. Heroin works. Sure, they’ll fuck you up, but they work.”

    I have to take minor issue with that – I tried was talked into trying marijuana a few times back in college, and, at least at the doses recommended by that dorm’s stereotypical stoner dudes guys, the only effects it had on me was a mild increase in hunger levels, and the usual irritation from inhaling smoke. None of the fun euphoria/high other people smoking from the same batch add. No mental impairment either – was able to do some Calculus homework shortly after, without issue. So naturally I stopped bothering after a few tries, since it was a waste of money. Likewise, anyone with no or low reaction to other drugs will probably not bother with them more than a few times.

    To add to that, there is a rare genetic “defect” that causes opiates to just not work on people. Can be an issue with doctors trying to treat chronic pain issues. There was case in Norway were a doctor ended up giving a hernia patient 60 times the usual morphine dose, to no effect.


    • Maybe I have something similar, alcohol just makes me feel dizzy and drinks taste bad. Even tea and coffee still taste like charcoal to me no matter how much my tea drinking family encourage me to try it. Marijuana I have tried the only thing I can say about it is it smells slightly less bad than tobacco which makes me want to vomit. The morphine the doctor gave me when I broke my arm did work though.

      This subject brings up the sad recent case of a depressed 17year old rape victim killing/”euthanizing” herself in Belgium. We keep on telling teens “don’t do drugs” but perhaps we should also tell them but before you commit suicide try anything else. Apparently, LSD has been found to work well for depression and is not very addictive.


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