American pharmacologist Alexander Shulgin (1924-2014) was the epitome of what a psychoactive drug researcher should be -- and what they WOULD be were America not under the spell of Drug War propaganda. Not only did he introduce the MDMA empathogen (or entactogen) to psychologists in the 1970s, but he personally created and "test drove" over 200 psychedelic substances, whose use conduced to happiness, mental focus and self-insight. . He achieved these results because he was granted a kind of rare exception to Drug War prohibitions thanks to his pharmacological genius. Along with his wife Ann, he was the author of the revolutionary 1991 book "PIHKAL: Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved." The title, by the way, is obscure on purpose, since Alexander knew that the use of the word "psychedelics" would virtually prevent the book from even being sold in Canada and America's mid-west.
Shulgin's research is a reproach to scientists everywhere, who have not only cowered under the threats of prohibition but also failed to admit to themselves or to the scientific community that they had self-censored their work due to Drug War prohibition. This is why we see articles in The Atlantic which discuss potential treatments for depression in which neither the author nor the scientists even mention the role that outlawed psychoactives could play in treating that condition. This is the worst kind of censorship imaginable, one in which the censored individuals fail to even recognize that their work is censored. At least Galileo knew that he was being forced to self-censor his work to agree with Church dogma. But scientists almost never admit that they have to censor THEIR work due to Drug War dogma: viz. the mendacious and anti-scientific idea that certain politically identified psychoactive substances can have no potential benefits whatsoever, not now, not later, not ever.
The fact that Shulgin "gets it" is clear from this damning observation of the status quo that he makes in the opening chapter of PIKHAL entitled "The Philosophy Behind the Writing of Pikhal":
"Our generation is the first, ever, to have made the search for self-awareness a crime, if it is done with the use of plants or chemical compounds as the means of opening the psychic doors."
Of course, no one's perfect. Shulgin's words are a wake-up call for myself as well. They remind me that I have been drawing a somewhat arbitrary distinction between Mother Nature's medicines and the synthetic substances that are inspired and derived from them. I've also focused on the idiocy of criminalizing Mother Nature, when perhaps the greater infamy, as Shulgin reminds us, is the criminalization of the search for self-awareness, the criminalization of our efforts to pursue the Platonic imperative of knowing ourselves.
The modest ambition of this essay is to bring Alexander Shulgin's work to the attention of those who have yet to learn of it. Mission accomplished, I hope. But I would like to conclude with one philosophical observation based on my reading thus far.
In Chapter 1, the semi-fictional protagonist, Alexander, recounts a surgical operation that he underwent for his infected thumb while in the Navy in World War II. Before the operation, he was presented with a glass of orange juice containing a gram of white powder and told that the substance was a powerful anesthetic. After drinking the substance, the sailor fell into a deep state of unconsciousness. Only later did he learn that the white substance was sugar and that his "anesthetic" was actually a placebo. This fact gave Alexander intimations about the great untapped potential of the human mind and eventually led to his decision to become a pharmacologist.
OBSERVATION: Most of the wonders that we ascribe to "drugs" are perhaps more accurately ascribed to the human mind. As suggested in the Doors of Perception, the role of psychedelic drugs in particular may be to help us activate different potentials that we already possess, not to foist upon us foreign thoughts and dreams that are somehow inherent in the substances themselves. Some psychologists erroneously conclude from this fact, however, that drugs are totally unnecessary for mental improvement and self-awareness. And so they make a virtue of Drug War necessity by promoting an endless list of drug-free self-help schemes to "open our minds," such as yoga, special diets, jogging, repeating affirmations, etc.
But let's not be naive. Most of us cannot go through painless surgery by drinking a glass of sugar water. Nor will the profound wonders of the mind ever be satisfactorily sounded by dint of willpower and exercise, except perhaps in the rare cases of Eastern monks who devote their entire life to achieving that drug-free goal. This is what I've tried in vain to tell my own therapists for the last 40 years. They always wanted me to run more, eat better foods, sleep more, sleep less, etc. I, for my part, wanted them to use the real politik of pharmacology, not because the counselor's anemic remedies could not work in theory, but because they almost never really worked in practice. And those who said they "did" work had what I considered to be very low standards for such alleged "success," unacquainted as they were with the profound epiphanies that psychoactive drugs can facilitate.
The Drug War is a bipartisan effort, hence its staying power, but if the Republicans have their way, we will have an insurrection to install a president who wants to carry out "the final solution" for the drug war, by executing those who dare to traffic in botanical godsends of which racist politicians disapprove. Yes, Joe Biden himself is part of the problem with his belief in prioritizing fear over facts and incarceration over education. Moreover, he just doesn't "get" the simple fact that prohibition causes violence, it's as simple as that. But the openly traitorous republicans, with the help of Fox News, want to take the drug war to "a whole new level" -- while turning America into a Banana Republic, by getting rid of free elections and installing demagogues by force. Surely the least we can ask of American corporations is that they do not attempt to profit from the peddling of the lies that support this ongoing effort at insurrection. Sign the petition today to tell American businesses that they will be held responsible for supporting networks that openly support insurrection.
*"Without the War on Drugs, the level of gun violence that plagues so many poor inner-city neighborhoods today simply would not exist." -- Heather Ann Thompson, The Atlantic, 2014.
The above numbers may represent undercounts since some of these totals were compiled in late 2021.
The news media just doesn't get it -- or doesn't want to get it. Most stories about the deaths of blacks in inner cities never mention the drug war, as if the fact that prohibition led to armed gangs had nothing to do with the skyrocketing gun deaths that they're reporting on today. For a case in point, check out the article by Micaela A Watts in CommercialAppeal with the headline: "Following 346 homicides in Memphis in 2021, officials consider what's driving the violence."
Yes, that's a real poser, Micaela. The city fathers must really be scratching their heads!
The author notes three major theories for the violence, all of which have nothing to do with the drug war: "Lack of conflict resolution skills," a lack of "fair wages," and (get this) poor mental health.
Looks like the city officials failed to ask themselves why city residents were armed to the teeth in the first place. Hello? That was due to the drugs warriors' substance prohibition which incentivized the poor and poorly educated young people to get into the fantastically profitable business of selling drugs!!!
Substance prohibition created drug gangs and cartels just as surely as liquor prohibition created the Mafia.
Yes, drug warrior, YOU are responsible for these deaths. You! It's a natural result of your ban on medical godsends, some of which have inspired entire religions and have the potential for treating (if not curing) such diverse conditions as Alzheimer's, autism, and depression.
Drug War Victim of the Day
killed in Prince Georges County, Maryland on August 15, 2022
Southeast Washington DC remains a no-go zone, even for UPS drivers, as this latest shooting incident points out, which is 1 in 6 shootings that have taken place in the last week, two of them fatal. If this were happening in Hollywood, California, it would be a scandal. But movie stars are people, and victims of the drug war, especially when poor and black, are what Noam Chomsky calls 'unpeople.'
Yes, even the director of "Bamboozled" is bamboozled about drugs. He agrees with the drug warrior lie that there are psychoactive substances in nature that have no positive uses whatsoever, in any place, any time, any context. This superstitious way of thinking has forced me to go without godsend medicine my entire life. Thanks, Spike. Why do you want people to become drug-hating Christian Scientists, exactly? These things that you call "drugs" have inspired entire religions. The conservatives are laughing as they rush to the polls to elect fascists, because they have bamboozled Spike Lee himself to sign off on the drug war which brings death and incarceration to inner city blacks. Throw away that "just say no" teddy bear with which you were bribed in childhood, Spike, and open your eyes.
Mangual is the author of 'Cities got deadlier in 2020: What's behind the spike in homicides?' in which he never once mentioned the drug war!
Here's my letter to his website:
Hi, Rafael. Just wanted to suggest that you start holding the drug war responsible for inner-city violence -- since substance prohibition incentivized 'dealing' in poor neighborhoods and the guns soon followed. Because no one mentions this 64,000-pound Gorilla, Trump is able to blame the deaths on Democrats, so that, rather than ending the violence-causing drug war, he can begin executing the blacks that drug warriors were previously happy with merely incarcerating.
The Secret World: A History of Intelligence.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
All warfare is based on deception, said Sun Tzu. Yes, but what is all deception based on? A mistrust of one's fellows. And how do you combat that, Chris? With empathogens like MDMA and psilocybin.
London: East India Publishing Company, 2021.
Pious drug warriors have usually thought of Marcus Aurelius as the perfect replacement for bad evil drugs -- but Marcus had his cake and ate it too. He philosophized under the influence of opium (but don't tell the kids!)
Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Polices on Young People.
: IDEBATE Press, 2011.
In which we learn how over 150 countries withhold godsend pain medicine from dying kids in the name of the drug war ideology of substance demonization.
DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule.
Vermonth: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company, 2021.
America spends millions on SETI and billions on NASA looking for alien beings -- and yet we ignore the world of world of inner visions with which naturally occurring substances seem determined to put us in touch
Society and Drugs.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1970.
Boullosa , Carmen.
A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War'.
New York: OR Books, 2016.
How the US Drug War and Its Mexican Collaborators caused the so-called Mexican Drug that has killed over a hundred thousand
The Truth about Opium / Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade.
India: Anna Ruggieri, 2017.
1920: The year that made the decade roar.
New York: Pegasus Books, 2015.
Carpenter, Ted Galen.
The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America.
Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2012.
Alice in Wonderland: The Original 1865 Edition With Complete Illustrations By Sir John Tenniel.
New York: Amazon, 2021.
Alice's shroom-powered adventures are a standing reproach to glum-faced drug warriors, who closely resemble the Queen of Hearts, shouting: "Off with their heads, for using godsend medicines of which I disapprove!"
Cohen, Jay S..
For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health.
New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2011.
Science is censored in a Drug War. They cover only the downsides of psychoactive medicine. That's why we need to learn the upsides of use from unconventional sources, like Lovecraft, Poe and Aleister Crowley.
De Quincey, Thomas.
Confessions of an English Opium Eater.
New York: Dover, 1995.
During De Quincey's informed opium use, he "partook" only weekly in order to better enjoy the opera, making his weekday life happier as well, however, thanks to anticipation of use, a benefit of which materialist science takes no account.
The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner .
New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.
A stark reminder that the world is living under a nuclear sword of Damocles. And why? Because it demonizes all the godsend medicines (like MDMA and shrooms) that could bring humanity together in universal harmony.
The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys .
New York: Park Street Press, 2011.
First-hand accounts of psychological breakthroughs achieved with the guided use of entheogens, suggesting that one-time givens like "character" and "human nature" are far more susceptible to improvement than we thought.
The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally.
Rochester, Vermoont: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company, 2011.
Psst! Don't tell anyone. This book actually talks about beneficial uses of the plant medicine that used to be in almost every medicine cabinet in England. That situation couldn't last long under unfettered capitalism.
A Disease in the Public Mind: Why We Fought the Civil War.
New York: Da Capo Press, 2014.
The late historian Fleming cites the popular mob-led public "diseases" of Witch-Hunting, Liquor Prohibition, and Communism -- yet says nothing about the Drug War, which was the great disease in the public mind of his own time!!!
Wall Street Journal.
New York: WSJ, 1989.
Liberalism and Its Discontents.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022.
Great bipartisan insights, BUT... Francis reckons without the drug war, so, like a good drug warrior, he blames all the ills caused by prohibition on the politically created boogieman called "drugs."
Cocaine: Global Histories.
New York: Routledge, 1999.
The Dream of Enlightenment: the Rise of Modern Philosophy.
New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016.
The author seems unaware of the increasingly clear ability of empathogens like MDMA and shrooms to improve the very human nature which grumps like Hobbes portray as being so irrevocably fixed.
Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms.
Annapolis: William Griffiths, 2021.
Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics.
New York: HarperWave, 2020.
Julie claims that Nixon criminalized psychedelics for health reasons. What? That's not the Nixon I know. He said himself that Leary was enemy #1. He was removing "users" from the voting rolls, not protecting them.
The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell.
New York: Penguin Books, 1970.
Huxley's speculations about perception jibe with modern science, which finds that human beings see what is presumably useful to them, not necessarily what is "really there" in the sensory-rich physical world.
Illicit Drug Markets, Consumer Capitalism and the Rise of Social Media: A Toxic Trap for Young People.
London: , 2019.
The Varieties of Religious Experience.
New York: Philosophical Library, 1902.
Synthetic Panics: The Sym- bolic Politics of Designer Drugs.
New York: New York University Press, 1999.
The Birth of the Modern.
New York: Harper Collins, 1991.
Johnson says that opium caused Samuel Taylor Coleridge's problems. Nonsense. Lack of education and irresponsibility causes problems. As Johnson himself says, most Brits used opium as needed without trouble.
The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead .
New York: University Books, 1964.
Americans have been primed by the drug-war zeitgeist to consider everything Leary writes as nonsense. But he was the first one to announce loudly and clearly that what's really nonsensical is to outlaw plant medicine.
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
New York: Del Rey Books, 1970.
Lovecraft's work is full of opiate imagery that drug warriors want to render impossible for artists to feel: "I would often drift in opiate peace through the valley and the shadowy groves..." (Ex-Oblivione)
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.
Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2009.
Gabriel moralizes "addiction." Addiction, however, is a political term. One can use psychoactive Big Pharma meds every day and be a good patient -- use heroin every day, however, and you're just escaping "inner pain." What?
Maupassant, Guy de.
Le Horla et autres contes fantastiques - Guy de Maupassant: Les classiques du fantastique .
Paris: , 2019.
In "La Horla," Maupassant anticipates Huxley by speculating that our perceptual habits blind us to a world of wonders. Many of today's demonized drugs, it appears, can at least partially open our eyes to that world.
Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution .
New York: Bantam, 1992.
This was the book that reminded me of what I already vaguely knew: that it is tyrannical insanity for a government to outlaw plants. McKenna's philosophical speculations on why we criminalize inspired me to create abolishthedea.com.
Miller, Richard Louis.
Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca Kindle .
New York: Park Street Press, 2017.
Informative interviews with movers-and-shakers in the field, including Rick Doblin, Stanislav Grof, James Fadiman, David Nichols and Robert Whitaker. Packed with eye-opening one-liners about godsend meds.
Mortimer MD, W. Golden.
Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas.
Berkeley, California: Ronin Publishing, 2017.
Mortimer reveals how Coca leaf chewing was to the long-lived Peruvian Indians what coffee drinking is to modern society. It provided them with endurance and social cohesion, just as coffee provides us with ambition and competitiveness.
Out of our Heads.
New York: HiII&Wang,, 2010.
Noe reveals how patients with "locked-in" syndrome have reported being supremely aware of their surroundings during their supposedly brain-dead coma, a fact that puts in question our materialist assumptions about consciousness.
Drug War Capitalism.
Chico, California: AK Press, 2014.
Substance prohibition causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some. Nowhere is this more true than in Latin America, as Dawn Paley describes in painstaking detail.
Alistair Crowley on Drugs.
unknown: uploaded by Misael Hernandez, 2021.
Because of drug war self-censorship, we have to turn to renegades like Alistair Crowley to learn the positive sides of so-called 'drug' use.
When Plants Dream.
New York: Watkins Publishing, 2019.
I find philosophical problems with most of the books that I read on the subject of psychoactive medicine, but Daniel Pinchbeck is one of the few authors who could teach me a few things on this topic.
Poe, Edgar Allan.
The Essential Poe.
New York: Warbler Classics, 2020.
Because drug warriors never mention the good side of "drugs," we must turn to Poe to learn, for instance, that morphine can bring a surreal appreciation of Mother Nature (see "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains").
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence .
New York: Penguin Books, 2018.
Pollan has yet to realize that the very term "drugs" is just a modern pejorative epithet for "plant medicine of which botanically clueless politicians disapprove. "
Reynolds, David S..
Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville .
New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Exhaustively researched account of the 19th-century zeitgeist, and yet the word "drugs" (as defined, or rather derided, by today's drug warrior) is never even used. Last century's boogieman was liquor, it seems, not "drugs."
Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences Hardcover.
New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.
The psychedelic experience was once characterized as pharmacologically induced madness. Richards shows how the properly guided experience can lead to sanity instead -- and a way of life that is not self-destructive.
Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898 .
Connecticut: Praeger, 2000.
The war took place 16 years before anti-Chinese Drug Warriors criminalized the poppy plant, and yet opium is only mentioned with regard to a group of unimaginative volunteers who smoked some and "couldn't see the point."
The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances.
New York: Macmillan Publishers, 2014.
Hurray to Rudgley for failing to dance to the Drug Warrior's tune and name his book "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs." Instead, he refers to "drugs" as substances, removing all the value judgments with which prohibitionists seek to demonize the sub
Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered.
New York: Arlington House, 1967.
Burke was a conservative in a sense, but he would not recognize America's Republican party of today. He would surely have seen that prohibition causes all the problems we ascribe to "drugs," and then some.
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.
New York: Penguin, 2014.
In 1980, the Air Force nearly blew up Arkansas and irradiated half the country. When Reagan took office the next year, what was his priority? Outlawing plant medicine that could make our species less warlike.
Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S. .
New York: Pocket Star, 2006.
On March 7, 1968, a rogue Soviet submarine nearly blew up Pearl Harbor with a thermonuclear bomb. Instead of launching a war on nukes, then-President Nixon launched a war on medicines that could inspire peace, love and understanding.
The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler.
New York: RosettaBooks, 2011.
Paraphrase from book: "No one who has not lived for years in a DRUG WAR SOCIETY can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda."
PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story.
New York: Transform Press, 1991.
'A tale of self-discovery, accompanied by the faint
stirrings of a technology that is yet to be fully born, much less developed.' - David Nichols
The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact.
Santa Fe: Transform Press, 2021.
Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds.
Back Bay Books: Boston, 2019.
Despite griping about the weight she's put on from taking her daily 'meds,' Slater gives Big Pharma a big fat mulligan for consigning 1 in 4 American women like herself to a lifetime of chemical dependency on SSRI antidepressants.
Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief.
: , 0.
Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology.
New York: , 2022.
St John, Graham.
Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT.
: , 2021.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences .
New York: Park Street Press, 2001.
Rick doubts DMT's therapeutic usefulness, but common sense psychology suggests that any break from full-on introspection would be a treat, notwithstanding materialists who aren't even sure that laughing gas could help the depressed!!!
Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography.
New York: Picador USA, 2003.
Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy.
New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
Ceremonial Chemistry: the ritual persecution of drugs, addicts, and pushers.
New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1974.
Filled with inconvenient truths that critics ignore rather than refute, including how politicized science tells us a la God: "Eat of the fruit and you shall die," ignoring the fact that education tells us how to eat of that fruit safely.
Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt.
: , 0.
Our Right to Drugs: The case for a free market.
New York: Praeger, 1992.
Chock-a-block with all-too-rare common sense: "Doctors, lawyers and politicians started the War on Drugs and continue to wage it, and they are its real beneficiaries -- the drug war's ostensible beneficiaries... are its victims."
Tyler, George R..
Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System.
Michigan: Pegasus Books, 2016.
Doesn't mention drugs, but illustrates how drug reform can be stymied by just 3% of the public: namely, those holding stock in Big Pharma, etc., especially when these elites can bribe politicians to retain the status quo.
The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness.
New York: Vintage, 1965.
Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class.
: Pegasus Books, 2014.
From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs.
New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2004.
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America .
New York: Crown, 2010.
Prohibition has facilitated the creation of a psychiatric pill mill upon which 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life. Moreover, these pills cause the chemical imbalances that they purport to fix.
Zuboff , Shoshana.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.
New York: Public Affairs, 2019.
Surveillance capitalists and drug warriors share the same goal: to keep human beings predictable: one by rendering us more robot-like and the other by denying us the mind-improving blessings of psychoactive medicine
There are an absolute LEGION of online articles and newspaper stories that get it wrong about so-called drugs. Even those in favor of drug law reform have been subject to drug war propaganda from childhood (and they probably have a DARE teddy bear to prove it!) so speak truth to nonsense and comment on the articles that get it wrong.
Bloody disgusting fact: The Drug War brought almost 800 deaths to Chicago in 2021 by incentivizing the hugely profitable sale of psychoactive medicine in poor communities. And now Trump and his fellow fascist drug warriors want to use that violence as an excuse to KILL drug dealers via execution! Any community leaders supporting the drug war are complicit in this genocide. For as Heather Ann Thompson wrote in The Atlantic in 2014: "Without the War on Drugs, the level of gun violence that plagues so many poor inner-city neighborhoods today simply would not exist."
How America can end inner-city homicides overnight in three easy steps:
Re-legalize Mother Nature's plant medicines
Treat substance abuse as a health problem
Buy back inner-city guns at double their purchase price (even triple the price would be a huge bargain in the long run)
This will, of course, be a huge sacrifice for everyday Americans, who do love their drug war, bless them.
Here are two additional steps for good measure:
Replace pill-pushing psychiatrists with pharmacologically savvy empaths
Replace the Drug Enforcement Agency with the Drug EDUCATION Agency