hen I was a teenager, I was always begging the field of psychiatry to do more. It seemed to me that there must be so many medicines out there, surely something would set my mind straight.
The result of my naivete? I was promptly pronounced "an addictive personality."
I've now had 40 years to think about that diagnosis and I call bull crap.
Imagine a field like psychiatry, that limits itself to prescribing a handful of addictive medicines, suspicious of anyone who dares hanker for more. That hankering is, in reality, utterly sensible.
Suppose you walk into a jewelry store and they have only one kind of diamond. You ask for other kinds of diamonds and they label you ungrateful and greedy. That's what psychiatry does when someone dares to allude to a larger pharmacopeia that psychiatry has dogmatically forsworn, whether in conformance with drug law, scientism, and/or the interests of the pharmaceutical companies that crank out the starkly limited formulary of politically acceptable mood medicines.
How dare I want to pick and choose from among the thousands of rain forest godsends. Why can't I just go along with the modest medicine cabinet of addictive substances that chemists have created to narrow down our choices to a nice politically acceptable roster?
Of course, the true irony of this state of affairs becomes plain when we consider that well over 1 in 8 Americans are addicted to modern-day antidepressants, one out of four when it comes to women, and that many of these drugs are harder to kick than heroin. So psychiatry may have a problem with SOMETHING, but it's clearly not with addiction. My own doctor told me not even to bother trying to "get off of" Effexor, given its 95% recidivism rate. And so I become an eternal patient, with all the demoralizing emotional baggage that comes with that condition. It's pretty much the exact opposite of empowering a patient, to make them a ward of the state, forever to be defined by their so-called illness.
The so-called addictive personality is actually "on to something." They realize that there's a vast pharmacopeia out there and they want psychiatry to use it. Psychiatry, for its part, must label such individuals as pathological, lest their craving for more should serve to illuminate the niggardliness of psychiatric offerings and demonstrate all too clearly that the entire field operates in crass subservience to anti-patient Drug War law and ideology.
I think what Brian's saying here is that it's meaningless to talk about addictive personalities in a society in which we criminalize most psychoactive medicines and teach people to fear and loathe them rather than to understand them. In a society wherein all pharmacological dangers were clear and folks knew how to get the kind of transcendence they were looking for in the safest possible way, no one would knowingly opt for the deadliest possible medicine. The problem is that Drug Warriors completely ignore this motivation for substance use -- namely the search for some kind of self-transcendence in life: for religious purposes, for on-demand motivation, to find some new spiritual truth, or to just take a break from a negative inner voice that is keeping one from achieving one's goals in life and/or performing a particular activity without self-destructing.
The Drug War brings about addiction by limiting the would-be user's knowledge of and access to all but a handful of drugs that the dealer is incentivized to sell. But in a world where mind medicines were legal and available, those who seek pharmacologically aided transcendence could do so non-addictively, either by using non-addictive substances like shrooms and MDMA or else by creating a drug use schedule which strategically alters the substances taken on a weekly basis in such a way that addiction to any given substance will never occur.
There was a documentary about PJ Brewster a few years ago in which we learned that PJ's friends did just that. They used a variety of "hard" drugs -- including crack cocaine -- but never became addicted because they were careful to never use the same drug twice in a row. Of course, the guy who volunteered this information has learned Drug War etiquette so he immediately added a non-sequitur apology saying, "Of course that was wrong."
Really? Why is it wrong to use psychoactive substances in a non-addictive way? It's wrong because the know-nothing Drug Warriors do not want Americans to know that such a thing is even possible! But the fact is, it is possible and it is the wise thing to do. In fact, this is what we should be teaching folks who seek pharmacological transcendence: how to use drugs (aka godsend mind medicines) in such a way that they will not get hooked -- unless they want to, of course: Unless they hit on the perfect drug (out of a freely available pharmacopoeia of thousands of such legalized medicines) that they don't mind taking for life, in the same way that 1 in 4 depressed women take a Big Pharma drug for depression every day of THEIR life.
Worried about addiction? Once we legalize all mind medicine, a pharmacologically savvy shaman/empath could imagine thousands of ways to slowly move the user who is unhappy with one med to another less troublesome med. We call such changes impossible today for two reasons: first because we outlaw almost all the medicine in question here, and second because the Drug War's goal is to get the user "sober" according to America's hypocritical definition of that term, not to get them happy according to their own definition of that term, not to bring them self-transcendence. Once we jettison the drug-war's Christian Science requirement for drug-free sobriety, the world's our oyster in terms of pharmacological treatments for the unhappy, the unsuccessful -- or simply for those who want to see beyond the veil, beyond the practical but starkly limited perceptual world served up to us daily by our five meager senses.
Were drugs legal and understood -- rather than illegal and feared -- Amy Winehouse might still be alive today (see How the Drug War Killed Amy Winehouse), for instead of just "tut-tutting" at her drug use (or recommending Christian Science rehab and a grim future of teeth-clenching "sobriety"), her friends would have shown her safe ways to gain the transcendence that she was after, not by "saying no to drugs," but by saying yes to the right drugs, used in the right way.
Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans
The government causes problems for those who are habituated to certain drugs. Then they claim that these problems are symptoms of an illness. Then folks like Gabriel Mate come forth to find the "hidden pain" in "addicts." It's one big morality play created by drug laws.
Prohibition turned habituation into addiction by creating a wide variety of problems for users, including potential arrest, tainted or absent drug supply, and extreme stigmatization.
Chesterton wrote that, once you begin outlawing things on grounds of health, you open a Pandora's box. This is because health is not a quality, it's a balance. To decide legality based on 'health' grounds thus opens a Pandora's box of different points of view.
Chesterton might as well have been speaking about the word 'addiction' when he wrote the following: "It is useless to have exact figures if they are exact figures about an inexact phrase."
We don't need people to get "clean." We need people to start living a fulfilling life. The two things are different.
Until we legalize ALL psychoactive drugs, there will be no such thing as an addiction expert. In the meantime, it's insulting to be told by neuroscience that I'm an addictive type. It's pathologizing my just indignation at psychiatry's niggardly pharmacopoeia.
Until we get rid of all these obstacles to safe and informed use, it's presumptuous to explain problematic drug use with theories about addiction. Drug warriors are rigging the deck in favor of problematic use. They refuse to even TEACH non-problematic use.
ME: "What are you gonna give me for my depression, doc? MDMA? Laughing gas? Occasional opium smoking? Chewing of the coca leaf?" DOC: "No, I thought we'd fry your brain with shock therapy instead."
PSYCHIATRY AND THE DRUG WAR
Imagine the Vedic people shortly after they have discovered soma. Everyone's ecstatic -- except for one oddball. "I'm not sure about these experiences," says he. "I think we need to start dissecting the brains of our departed adherents to see what's REALLY going on in there."
The search for SSRIs has always been based on a flawed materialist premise that human consciousness is nothing but a mix of brain chemicals and so depression can be treated medically like any other physical condition.
"I can take this drug that inspires me and makes me compassionate and teaches me to love nature in its byzantine complexity, or I can take Prozac which makes me unable to cry at my parents' funeral. Hmm. Which shall it be?" Only a mad person in a mad world would choose SSRIs.
We don't need people to get "clean." We need people to start living a fulfilling life. The two things are different.
Sana Collective Group committed to making psychedelic therapy available to all regardless of income.
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.
A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.
The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. (For proof of that latter charge, check out how the US and UK have criminalized the substances that William James himself told us to study in order to understand reality.) It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions (like the Vedic), Nazifies the English language (referring to folks who emulate drug-loving Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin as "scumbags") and militarizes police forces nationwide (resulting in gestapo SWAT teams breaking into houses of peaceable Americans and shouting "GO GO GO!").
(Speaking of Nazification, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates thought that drug users should be shot. What a softie! The real hardliners are the William Bennetts of the world who want drug users to be beheaded instead. That will teach them to use time-honored plant medicine of which politicians disapprove! Mary Baker Eddy must be ecstatic in her drug-free heaven, as she looks down and sees this modern inquisition on behalf of the drug-hating principles that she herself maintained. I bet she never dared hope that her religion would become the viciously enforced religion of America, let alone of the entire freakin' world!)
In short, the drug war causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)
If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.
PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.
PPS Drugs like opium and psychedelics should come with the following warning: "Outlawing of this product may result in inner-city gunfire, civil wars overseas, and rigged elections in which drug warriors win office by throwing minorities in jail."
Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company
Bache, Christopher "LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven" 2019 Park Street Press