America (and hence the world) will never understand substance use until it grasps the following so-far unacknowledged truths:
Besides being used in order to secure what the puritan drug warrior would call "a cheap high," many of the substances that we love to hate can be (have been and will be) used for:
experiencing religious transcendence
gaining creative inspiration
This is all common sense that not only the drug warrior but modern psychology largely ignore, preferring instead to classify illegal drug use as drug abuse and therefore conveniently ascribing it to disease in the DSM manual and so not having to deal with the philosophical motivations of such use. In fact, according to popular wisdom, a personality becomes pathologically addictive precisely to the extent that they manifest a desire for the above outcomes through their substance use.
This is all drug war folly however that does not stand up to the least bit of philosophical scrutiny. Early Vedic religion was founded to celebrate the religious transcendence afforded by a psychoactive plant or fungi. Meanwhile forbidden psychoactive plants have fostered creative visions that led to the discovery of DNA and the authorship of classic literature. As for motivation, Freud was what today's puritan drug warrior would have called a "drug fiend," but it is mere Christian Science faith to suppose that his enormous vocational output would have been passed down to posterity without his frequent use of cocaine.
Psychiatry is doubly hypocritical in ignoring the philosophical ramifications of this latter case, since it begs the question: If Freud successfully combated his own self-limiting demons using the real politik of cocaine, why should his patients be forced to rely on theoretical cures and the starkly limited pharmacopeia of the drug war?*
Why is it crucial that America recognize the above-noted reasons for so-called "drug use"? Because only then will it be clear that the vicious DEA crackdown on mere possession of substances is far more than a crackdown on juvenile delinquents and other "undesirables": it is a crackdown on consciousness, transcendence, artistic possibility, and spirituality in the deepest sense of those words. It is a limitation not simply on thought, but on the very way that we are allowed to think. It is the Christian Science celebration of "sobriety" as the ultimate good, a religious stance which, like any religious stance, should be tolerated in a free country but never, as in drug warrior America, made the law of the land.
"Sobriety" itself is a philosophically fraught word, of course: we are all influenced by chemicals -- the sober individual is simply he or she who has the default chemicals in their system, including in America's case plenty of caffeine, both in coffee and in the rabidly marketed pep pills of 21st century America. So even our use of the word "sobriety" is hypocritical, for it shelters the drugs of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol (and indeed Big Pharma anti-depressants) under its linguistic wing thus shielding their use from the otherwise meticulous moral scrutiny of the hypocritical drug warrior.
By ignoring the above truths, we allow for a world full of unnecessary suffering: the depressed senior citizen moaning to themselves in homes for the elderly, the suicide who died for want of the motivation that a mere plant could have afforded but which we denied him in our self-righteous Christian Science callousness, the would-be artist whom we have shackled in their own emotional self-doubt by superstitiously denying them the motivating plant-medicine that, until 1914, had been that individual's birth right under natural law merely for having been born on planet earth.
*Note that my goal here is not to trash Freudianism, insofar as it posits subconscious motivations for seemingly inexplicable human behavior. To the contrary, Stanislav Grof has produced tantalizing evidence that psychedelic therapy can bring back otherwise inaccessible memories from birth, that can then be processed therapeutically with an empathic counselor. With this in mind, we can say that classic "talk" psychotherapy is not necessarily a bad approach: rather it is one that, in the absence of such psycho-pharmaceutical adjuncts, has proven itself to be hugely expensive, glacially slow in terms of progress, and, at best, marginally successful in helping a patient cope, let alone thrive. Once we remove political prohibitions from medicine and actually treat patients with substances that work, psychotherapy may finally come into its own, as the psychic amnesiac is powerfully reminded of emotions that have been so long repressed.
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