A William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Henri Laborit , Roger Gentis, Francis Jeanson, Jean-Louis Baudron, Bernard Aigron, Louis Picard, Jean-Pierre Verrier, Bernard Lafond, Clovis Durand, Paul O’Donovan, à mes collègues infirmiers, et à tous les acteurs de ce livre, vivants et morts.
J Warwick Sweeney hails his grandfather’s pioneering work in addiction therapy. But he believes his socially-conscious methods have been cast aside due to corporate greedSeptember 6, 2019By J Warwick Sweeney
It could be said the stories behind my book Hardy Tree landed in my lap – I am, after all, the grandson of its subject John Yerbury Dent, once known as a pioneer of addiction therapies. But I’d be lying if I said it was easy; being faithful to what actually happened was critical, but I also felt a compelling need to do the story and its political message justice. Like all of us I have known many who have fallen victim to addiction and its allied conditions; the depressions and anxieties. And of course, with Dent being my grandfather, I felt an acute sense of unease at the exponential rise in suffering that nobody currently seems capable of arresting.
I discussed this with my mother and she gave me her father’s memoirs and piles of unpublished manuscripts. I sought counsel among today’s addiction specialists to see if they could help make sense of it all. What I soon realised is that what is missing today is any sense of moral or ethical probity. Medicine, particularly in the field of the psycho-social diseases, is dominated by pharma and bureaucracy, which can only result in things getting worse. My maternal grandfather symbolised the polar opposite of this ‘pill-a-day’ culture. And as for today’s addiction specialists? Some of them may stand in Dent’s shoes but I have yet to meet one who is truly capable of lacing them.
Confronting this I simply had to explain the gulf between my grandfather’s approach and philosophy and the over-medicalised red-tape idiocy of today; the huge hole that this represents in terms of social provision, the destroyed communities, the homelessness, the addicted and the inevitable worldwide consequence, the countless millions of voiceless dead.
This is a very troubling political story and I realised, probably a bit late in the day that my grandfather and I share a profound political sensibility, a preference for bottom-up politics based on a stewardship of knowledge. Amongst his jumble of writings I found a letter to a publishing friend. He wrote, “I am suspicious of all authority when it is uncontrolled from below.” This clinched it for me. My grandfather was a social democrat who appealed for greater understanding surrounding addiction precisely because it would benefit society.
It is a sad irony therefore that his knowledge has been neglected by the medical and political fraternities. Yet never has it been more critical for society to rethink the current direction of travel. Our drug laws haven’t mitigated the threat of addiction, they have enabled it. This is the consequence of autocratic government, where a lobbying culture in favour of corporate interests prevail, rather than any sense of ethical probity.
Andrew was hinting at the brain’s extraordinary power to intercede on our behalf
My grandfather had used a drug called apomorphine to wean people off their biochemical dependencies. I sought out Professor Andrew Lees at UCL, who has successfully used apomorphine to provide symptomatic relief to those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. I wasn’t feeling very well myself, having just fallen 150ft off a cliff in Snowdonia. Andrew was curious.
“What was that like?” he asked.
“Well, you might think that in mid-air you’d go rigid with fear, but strangely the opposite happened. I relaxed!”
“You fell like a baby?” he suggested.
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Then you have insight.” Andrew smiled.
What Andrew was hinting at is the brain’s extraordinary power to intercede on our behalf. In a split second it can shut down our consciousness, our ‘front brain’, and rely on ‘back brain’ pathways. In a peculiar way I was confronting, through bizarre circumstances, a further dimension of my grandfather’s appreciation of neurology, that the real powerhouse of the brain is not our executive side, the cortex, but the back-brain limbic system. Since that day Andrew has become a significant figure in my determination to bring to light the battles my steadfast grandfather had while trying to broadcast the causes of addiction and how to reduce its grip on society.
Within my family we grew up ‘knowing’ that my grandfather was an atheist. During my research into Hardy Tree this account appeared unconvincing, particularly when I realised his own parents had been highly spiritual, if not religious.
“Your father was a Quaker, wasn’t he?” I said one day to my mother and aunt. My mother scraped away the layers of a failing memory…. “Oh yes,” she recalled, “One day, just before a minor court case in which I had to testify he rang me up. ‘Darling,’ he said, ‘don’t forget you can affirm, you know?’”
I knew little about Quakerism but did know that in a court of law Quakers do not have to swear on the Bible. Quakers are also fiercely resolute social reformers, advocating practices of mutual benefit through cooperation. It was immediately clear that the Quaker principles; Simplicity, Pacifism, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship – SPICES – had informed my grandfather’s approach to doctoring. Everything about him; his politics, convictions and medical practice were suddenly aligned and everything fell into place. And Hardy Tree began to blossom.
J Warwick Sweeney’s Hardy Tree – A Doctor’s Bible is out now (Bracketpress, £30), available direct from bracketpress.co.uk
Le 1er août, à l’âge de 91 ans, Roger Gentis nous a quittés.
Lorsque j’étais interne au CHS de Fleury les Aubrais, dans les années 1970, il fut pour moi un Maître. Ce grand psychiatre était une figure de proue du mouvement de la psychothérapie institutionnelle, né à Saint Alban en 1942, à l’époque de la Résistance contre le totalitarisme Nazi. Ce mouvement, à la Libération, s’est engagé dans l’humanisation des hôpitaux psychiatriques en transformant l’institution asilaire en une néo société dans laquelle les malades mentaux devenaient participatifs en tant que personnes. Ce fut l’époque des clubs thérapeutiques, de la formation des infirmiers (en particulier par les stages CEMEA) à l’écoute des patients et à un positionnement relationnel désaliénant, via la grille psychanalytique essentiellement.
Jeune interne, je prenais en charge le journal des patients (l’Echo des Bruyères fondé en 1947), organisait des échanges d’idées associant patients et personnel soignant dans les unités de soins, participait à la revue Vie Sociale et Traitement (VST), ainsi qu’à des stages CEMEA. C’est d’ailleurs de cette époque de formation que s’est forgé mon intérêt pour la communication dans le champ de la psychiatrie.
Roger Gentis était doté d’une grande curiosité pour les nouvelles approches thérapeutiques, telles que la bioénergie, le cri primal, dont l’époque était foisonnante. Il s’engageait surtout résolument dans la seconde phase de la psychothérapie institutionnelle : le retour des patients « dans la cité ». C’est ce qui allait s’appeler la psychiatrie de secteur. Il n’hésitait à venir dans une salle de cinéma pour parler de la psychose avec un public. Et il faisait salle comble. Il était également un fervent militant de l’UNAFAM (mouvement associatif des familles de malades mentaux).
This is an extremely interesting book by Warwick Sweeney, with a foreword by Pr Andrew Lees, on Dr Dent’s treatment of apomorphine, on William Burroughs, and on the evolution of the medical area since the fifties in the domain of drugs and the changes of the nature of relation towards patients in the economical context. Hence, the lightening it brings on those latest decades allows a better understanding of the present goals, very useful to health workers and to potential or actual patients as well.
The edition itself by Bracket Press is very good quality, containing many black and white and color illustrations and original documents, for a cheap price compared to the result.
HARDY TREE – A Doctor’s Bible
by J. Warwick Sweeney
The current rises in anxiety, depression, mental ill-health and addiction are out of control. In the middle of the 20th century, John Yerbury Dent, a pioneering London doctor from the ‘do no harm’ tradition, campaigned for a deeper understanding of these ailments, better treatments and policies. Few listened.
Hardy Tree is a biographical novel written by Dent’s grandson, J Warwick Sweeney, and plots the life of Dent using the doctor’s own writings; his unpublished memoirs and correspondence.
Towards the end of Dent’s life an anonymous and unfulfilled literary genius suffering from heroin addiction came to London. Knocking at death’s door he was sent to knock on Dent’s. His name: William Seward Burroughs.
Hardy Tree is the previously untold story of Burroughs’ rebirth and the crucial part played by his doctor’s compassion, and the lost art of healing. An inspirational and timely story.
Production details: 215mm x 153mm, 448 pages, litho printed on Munken Premium Cream 90gsm, illustrated (colour + b/w), black endpapers, sewn-section binding with fully blocked cover and printed dust jacket. Limited edition of 500 hand-numbered copies. Weight: 1kg approx.
ISBN 978-1-9996740-3-8. Publishing date: 23 August 2019.
RRP: £30.00 + P&P
En raison des différents points de vue exprimés sur le net sur le gamma OH et la minaprine (Cantor) , il m’a semblé intéressant de mettre en ligne celui de leur inventeur, le Professeur Henri Laborit, tiré du livre « L’Alchimie de la Découverte », le plus qualifié pour en parler sur une base scientifique.
Les propriétaires de sites qui s’approprient ma documentation sur Henri Laborit sont priés de bien vouloir citer leurs sources, à plus forte raison quand ils la détournent dans des objectifs commerciaux, idéologiques, etc., qui n’ont rien à voir avec le travail de Laborit, ni avec le mien. Cette documentation est en ligne en accès libre, ce qui signifie qu’elle est accessible à tout le monde. Elle n’a pas pour vocation d’être récupérée ni monopolisée, ni instrumentalisée.