Essay date: April 21, 2022

Why Americans Can't Handle the Truth about Drugs

he reader who believes that I am desperately in favor of "drug use" is wrong. I am desperately in favor only of complete honesty about drugs whereby intelligent persons may make intelligent decisions about using (or abstaining from) any given substance -- complete honesty, that is to say, about ALL drugs, including everything from Ketamine to SSRIs, from LSD to alcohol, from opium to tobacco. This honesty that I'm after would be based not on wish fulfillment or eye-catching one-off anecdotes, but rather on actual outcomes of actual use patterns, telling potential users in effect, "If you use substance A in this way, then X is statistically likely to happen, if you use it in THAT way, then Y," with such reports focusing both on the reported subjective AND objective benefits and downsides of use. My urgency derives from the fact that there is no such drug honesty in the United States. Instead, users must decide for themselves precisely how much of Drug Warrior bluster, overstatement and factual cherry-picking should justifiably discourage them in their particular use of a particular substance.

That said, it is emphatically not just the Drug War which is to blame for this lack of honesty about drugs in America. There is another force at work in American society that limits our understanding about so-called "drugs" and that is what I call the sanctification effect. It is a descendant of the American penchant for medicine shows in the 19th-century, wherein an authority figure (generally decked out as a "doctor") convinced a desperate audience that a bottle of "Dr. Good" would cure everything that ailed them and without any untoward side effects whatsoever. This sanctification effect appears whenever capitalism (or more specifically the entrepreneurial spirit) works to promote an unnuanced and glorified understanding of a psychoactive substance in order to peddle that substance to an often desperate clientele. Such a drug soon becomes beatified in the minds of its champions, who are thenceforth averse to even contemplating facts that might conduce to removing said substance from the pedestal that has been fashioned for it, often through a powerful combination of wishful crowd-think and the conscious sales strategy of ambitious entrepreneurs.

This tendency to sanctify is understandable as a reaction to the omnipresence of Drug War lies and misinformation in American society. It's especially understandable in those who believe as I do in our right to control our own minds and thought processes. Why, after all, would we want to give ammunition to our enemies so that they can emotionally trash psychoactive substances still further? Yet lies should be met with truth if we are ultimately to gain our freedom from those who would demonize psychoactive substances, even if such truth might seem to 'play into the hands' of our opponents in the short run. For it's not simply isolated truths that will eventually set us free, but rather the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In a world of such rigorous truth-telling, the unfounded and sensationalized fears of Chicken Little Drug Warriors will be seen for the uneducated panic that they represent.

For a specific example of the sanctification effect, let us consider ketamine. It is marketed as a new godsend for depression and highly praised both by entrepreneurs in the field and those who hope to benefit from the drug. So far, so good, as there is indeed some reason for excitement, especially in cases of severe depression. And yet ketamine use is not without risk. I learned that there were risks, however, not from American doctors -- and certainly not from those doctors attempting to sell the drug as a depression treatment -- but rather from articles written by doctors in Hong Kong and Malaysia, where ketamine has been linked to urological problems in certain users. This negative factoid, however, is silenced in America by the above-mentioned sanctification effect. Why? Because generally speaking, the only folks who are talking extensively about ketamine depression therapy are the desperately depressed and those who cater to them capitalistically speaking, neither of whom are eager to hear about flaws in a substance that they are embracing (and/or marketing) as a long-awaited panacea.

So we have lies coming from both sides when it comes to drugs like ketamine: the Drug War encourages us to fear the drug uncritically while the sanctification effect leads us to embrace the drug uncritically.

That's why we need a Drug Education Agency to replace the highly mendacious DEA, which has been brazenly libeling plant medicine since its inception in 1973. We need an honest, nonpartisan and completely independent agency that neither touts drugs nor demonizes them, but rather provides totally unbiased and statistically based results of actual use of specific psychoactive substances in specific contexts, to clearly demonstrate how said substances can be used most safely for worthwhile purposes and in what ways their use may be seen to cause actual problems in the real world (problems, that is, which are not caused, as so many drug problems are today, by drug criminalization itself).

As this analysis suggests, it is not just the Drug Warrior who would oppose the creation of such a completely honest agency: it is the capitalist as well. For if we were completely honest about ketamine in this way, we would also have to be completely honest about Big Pharma meds, and complete honesty based on actual usage would show Americans (in black and white, as it were, after years of self-interested silence on this point from financially interested parties) that many SSRI antidepressants lead to a lifetime of substance dependency while yet not "fixing" depression, but rather leading in the long-term to emotional-flatlining.

And so when it comes to psychoactive substances, Americans of both parties are like Lieutenant Kaffee in "A Few Good Men." They say they want the truth, but they can't handle the truth.

PS Some might say that drugs are covered honestly in Academia, but this is not so. Any survey of the literature shows that almost all discussion of psychoactive substances is written with a myopic focus on the downsides of use. The collective effect of this body of literature is to toe the Drug War line that there is no rational use for psychoactive substances, a stance which is at odds both with the history of substance use (as, for instance, when soma inspired the Vedic religion) and the very basics of human psychology, which tell us that the search for self-transcendence is universal and not pathological as the prudish academic literature on this topic seems to imply.

May 26, 2022

Let's toss in a few caveats here that Brian (bless him) failed to address: First, when it comes to naturally occurring medicines, we have no right to outlaw them in the first place since they are a gift from nature and therefore not subject to criminalization -- in light of the natural law upon which America was founded. Yes, let's be truthful about them until the cows come home, but we must not let any safety scruples that we formulate about them convince us that we have a common-law right to criminalize plants. That was the original sin of the Drug War back in 1914 when politicians had the unmitigated hubris to criminalize the poppy, thereby creating a century-plus of gunfire, violence and the outlawing of religion -- insofar as drugs like coca, opium and psychedelics have inspired entire religions before the west came along to declare the substances somehow criminal in and of themselves.

Here's another elephant that Brian failed to observe in the room: The FDA's idea of "safety" reckons without its host. It gives decidedly short shrift to the desperate needs of the depressed and suicidal. That's why they can outlaw such an obvious help to the depressed as laughing gas (nitrous oxide). They outlaw it because they're scared to death that some uneducated young people will find a disastrous way to use the drug and then end up on the evening news in some local tragedy that will get drug-warrior jaws flapping in Congress. And what's the result of their politically inspired fear: MILLIONS AND MILLIONS must go without a godsend treatment -- all because a handful of young people might find a politically button-pushing way to misuse it. Since when do the merely theoretical concerns about a small number of young people trump the needs of millions if not billions??? Answer: Since the topic of "drugs" was politicized and became all about fear instead of education. Speaking of which, it never occurs to the FDA that the answer to their disproportionately centered fears is to educate the public -- rather than force the whole world to go without godsends because a relatively tiny number of kids are going to find a way to misuse them.

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans


By reading "Drug Warriors and Their Prey," I begin to understand why I encounter a wall of silence when I write to authors and professors on the subject of "drugs." The mere fact that the drug war inspires such self-censorship should be grounds for its immediate termination.
Next essay: How the Drug War is a War on Creativity
Previous essay: The Menace of the Drug War

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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 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.

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

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)

Selected Bibliography

  • Bandow, Doug "From Fighting The Drug War To Protecting The Right To Use Drugs"2018
  • Barrett, Damon "Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Polices on Young People"2011 IDEBATE Press
  • Bernays, Edward "Propaganda"1928 Public Domain
  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Boullosa , Carmen "A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War'"2016 OR Books
  • Brereton, William "The Truth about Opium / Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade"2017 Anna Ruggieri
  • Burns, Eric "1920: The year that made the decade roar"2015 Pegasus Books
  • Carpenter, Ted Galen "The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America"2012 Cato Institute
  • Chesterton, GK "Saint Thomas Acquinas"2014 BookBaby
  • Filan, Kenaz "The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally"2011 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Grof, Stanislav "The transpersonal vision: the healing potential of nonordinary states of consciousness"1998 Sounds True
  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
  • Irwin-Rogers, Keir "Illicit Drug Markets, Consumer Capitalism and the Rise of Social Media: A Toxic Trap for Young People"2019
  • James, William "The Varieties of Religious Experience"1902 Philosophical Library
  • Lindstrom, Martin "Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy"2011 Crown Business
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Nagel, Thomas "Mind and Cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false"2012 Oxford University press
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rosenblum, Bruce "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"2006 Oxford University Press
  • Rudgley, Richard "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances"2014 Macmillan Publishers
  • Shulgin, Alexander "PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story"1991 Transform Press
  • Shulgin, Alexander "The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact"2021 Transform Press
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief"0
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology"2022
  • St John, Graham "Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT"2021
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
  • Wedel, Janine "Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class"2014 Pegasus Books
  • Weil, Andrew "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs"2004 Open Road Integrated Media
  • Whitaker, Robert "Mad in America"2002 Perseus Publishing
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at