September 14, 2020
The Philosophy of Drug Useby Ballard Quass
why celebrities tend to use 'drugs'
Why do so many rock, pop, TV and movie stars have "trouble" with "drugs"? The answer is rather simple, despite the fact that addiction "experts" do everything they can to confuse the issue.
Take Gabriel Mate, for instance. He asserts that almost every addict is dealing with inner pain.
This is a problematic statement already, since the term "addict" is a political label: it refers to those who are "addicted" to illegal drugs only, not to those who are addicted to Big Pharma Meds (including one in four American women, an addiction crisis with which Mate does not appear to be particularly bothered). Moreover, when JFK used speed, it was for "therapeutic" reasons, but had John Doe used "speed" in the same way, he would have been called an addict. These, of course, are political diagnoses, not medical ones.
But putting aside the hypocrisy of the term "addict," Mate and his fellow addiction counselors are so eager to medicalize and moralize the "addiction problem" that they miss the obvious psychological explanation of drug use among celebrities (and would-be celebrities). These people are "putting themselves out there" in a more nerve-racking position than those that are notoriously encountered by a public speaker. They cannot flinch before the camera or their career is dead. The moment that they demonstrate the least bit of doubt before their public, they are headed down the road of self-destruction. How? Due to the phenomenon that laypeople so accurately refer to as "choking," aka self-destructing, the masochistic phenomenon that Edgar Allan Poe so meticulously described in his short story entitled "The Imp of the Perverse."
Poe himself pointed out that "the schools" take no notice of this phenomenon and that remains the case to this very day, 150 years later, despite the fact that the laypeople just mentioned are under no delusions about the existence of this tendency: this tendency to destroy oneself by becoming excessively conscious of what one is doing, when one is doing it. Heidegger himself understood this phenomenon though he apparently addressed it too pedantically to be understood by the addiction counselors of our time. These latter professionals tend to see illegal substance use among celebrities as a sign of some deep-seated inner conflict from childhood, rather than as the instinctive employment of real politik by a user who realizes, in the words of Poe himself, that "to think was to be lost." If they become aware of what they're doing while they're doing it, their career is over, in the exact same way that knife jugglers are dead (or at least hideously injured) the moment that they start consciously thinking about specific knife trajectories while they are juggling.
In short: celebrities must silence the inner voice or quite simply lose their job, their self-respect, and their money.
Faced with these psychological facts of life, it is no wonder that many celebrities resort to "drugs" to keep that inner voice at bay. They "know" about the phenomenon of choking even if psychologists do not, and they know that, should they "choke" in front of an audience, they will get no kudos for having performed "sober" - no record company is going to keep paying their salaries because they have "just said no to drugs." Their job demands performance, and while society sings the praises of sobriety, no one is going to pay them one single penny for it: they are going to pay only for that celebrity who can be a real personality - right in front of the prying and judgmental eyes of the audience.
No doubt some of us have personalities that are naturally up to that task, just as some of us are less nervous than others while speaking in public. But many of us have a tendency to self-doubt in front of audiences and we realize instinctively (as demonstrated by our natural grasp of the psychological concept of "choking") that self-doubt is a killer. Given this state of affairs, it is no surprise whatsoever that would-be celebrities would have an instinct to self-medicate, and what's more, that instinct is usually "right." They DO need to self-medicate, precisely to the extent that they would otherwise "choke." What's more, they are motivated by the simple desire to survive in the world - and not by some childish desire to "get high" for the hell of it.
But instead of grasping these facts, Drug Warriors (and those who are influenced by their philosophically flawed premises) express a naïve surprise in the face of celebrity drug use, saying idiotic things such as: "Oh, he was such a talented person: why did he have to ruin himself by taking drugs!" Or, "She was such a wonderful performer: had she only said no to drugs, how much better she might have been!"
But the notion that these performers would have been performers without "drugs" is just so much Christian Science piety. It's a matter of faith of the Drug War, without any grounding in the psychology of the everyday life of actual human beings. Sure, many early drug users eventually renounce the drugs in question (preferably while publishing a best seller about their "courageous battle with addiction"), but the drug still served its psychological purpose, even if the ungrateful star fails to acknowledge it: the substance kept the user from choking just long enough that success became a habit, at which point the drug itself was no longer necessary. In other words, drug use of this kind can lead to a virtuous circle of positive feedback, thanks to which the "imp of the perverse" is often effectively silenced for the rest of the performer's life.
Of course, since celebrities (and celebrity wannabes) get exactly zero help from naive psychology in acquiring substances that quiet the overly censorious mind, they end up buying and using whatever substances are available for that purpose on the black market - which, thanks to Drug War prohibition, end up being some of the most addictive substances on the planet, especially when used ill-advisedly, which is the only way they CAN be used thanks to the Drug War prohibition on educating people objectively about the pros and cons of psychoactive substances. Such education may not be technically illegal but it is strongly discouraged by drug law. Why? Because the objective recital of the pros and cons of psychoactive substances would show up Big Pharma meds for the ineffective and highly addictive substances that they are. Such a listing would also show that drugs like opium and cocaine are not evil incarnate, but rather simply substances that can be used for good or ill, depending upon how they are employed.
So, why do so many rock, pop, TV and movie stars have "trouble" with "drugs"?
It is a leading, and therefore misleading, question, phrased in such a way as to make "drugs" a universal scapegoat, the cause of all evil in the world (even psychological evil), thus allowing psychologists and society in general to ignore the real problem here.
The fact is there is no drug problem among celebrities: there is a problem with egos and choking.
Until psychology correctly defines the problem, they'll be lousy at combatting it.
Of course, psychology is no doubt willfully purblind in this regard, because once this problem is acknowledged, the "fix" that suggests itself is politically incorrect. Why? Because the psychological problems in question cry out for the creative use of thousands of psychoactive plants in therapies custom-made for each doubt-riddled performer, substances which can quiet the "imp of the perverse" with the least problematic side effects in both the short and long runs. And since Drug Warriors, in their simplistic philosophy, cannot see anything but hedonism in the use of psychoactive substances, they cannot imagine a world in which plant medicines are used in this way.
QUALIFICATIONS AND AFTERTHOUGHTS
Of course, it might be argued that I myself am pathologizing drug use by referring it to a kind of basic human anxiety, but the anxiety of which I speak here is inherent to the human condition (Poe certainly thought so) and therefore not pathological in any meaningful sense of that word. I should also add that the fear of choking is not the only reason why a celebrity might rationally seek out drugs, as for instance they may simply need a boost in stamina after the manner of a Red Bull devotee. But we must be careful here, because if the "Imp of the Perverse" is a fundamental principle of psychological life, then celebrities must often self-medicate in order to avoid it without consciously recognizing the motive behind their actions. According to the usual moralizing approach of modern psychology, such self-medicating is inexplicable: the celebrity was doing fine, after all, why need he or she self-medicate!? When we think in this way, we have to start fishing about for childhood traumas (Gabriel Mate's "inner pains") in order to explain the substance use in question. But such drug use makes perfect sense once we recognize that the celebrity must intuit the absolute imperative to avoid excessive introspection at any cost. Platitudes about "just say no" are all well and good, but the celebrity has to survive in the world and pay bills, not just please some politically correct psychiatrist that they see every three months or so.
For such celebrities know, to quote Poe again, "that to think was to be lost," and that is why they seek to keep one step ahead of their self-doubt, by any means necessary, and to hell with the DEA and purblind psychiatry, which would want to arrest him on the one hand and addict him on the other, though not to drugs that will help him forget himself and so succeed in celebrity life, but rather to Big Pharma meds which will help him make his or her peace with falling short of self-fulfillment in life.