Essay date: February 21, 2021

America's Puritan Obsession with Sobriety

Want to be a Christian Science hero.  Make sure you die without any godsend plant medicine in your system!  Instead Drug War sainthood.

have yet to read or hear anyone in the 21st century speak honestly and rationally about drugs. Even the card-carrying enemies of the Drug War are under the spell of at least one Drug War lie, and they are usually mentally hobbled by a whole series of false Drug War assumptions. If nothing else, they accept the Drug War lie that "substances" are problems when the only real problems (as everyone knew before 1914) is a lack of education, violence-producing prohibition, and laws that are specifically written to target a bigoted politician's enemies. In the old days, these were poll taxes. In more recent times, these are drug laws.

Here's another lie to which even critics of the Drug War succumb. They speak as if this thing they call "sobriety" is the ne plus ultra of moral conditions. But that's just a Christian Science supposition, not a scientific fact. What's so great about sobriety, after all? Sobriety often kills. Why? Because the sober mind is often depressed, angry, in despair, caught up in a vicious circle of disempowering and defeatist self-talk.

Yes, many so-called "drug" users do want to escape reality... but there is a good reason for that. Their self-talk was making them unable to assert themselves in the world and maximize their self-actualization. You don't solve that problem by insisting that sobriety is somehow a goal in and of itself!

Let's say that my mental self-talk keeps me from enjoying life, to the point where I can't do my job, can't make money, etc. And so I try an illicit substance and go in for counseling. Suddenly, the idiotic assumption of my caregivers is that I need to become "sober." But that is nonsense. It is sobriety itself that led to my downfall. I need help from an empath who is empowered to use a wide variety of psychoactive plant medicine to help me think outside the murderous box of my self-doubts and depression. I don't need lectures about the sanctity of sobriety in the abstract.

But the modern Drug Warrior has this absurd idea that if I would only become "sober," I would be fine.

This is why illicit drug use in Drug War America makes perfect sense. What's the alternative for those suffering self-doubt? The alternative is either to become a lifelong ward of the healthcare state, hooked on the limited pharmacopoeia of psychiatry's disgraceful pill mill, which tamps down emotions rather than empowering self-actualization -- or simply to become "sober," notwithstanding the negative voices in one's mind that will shout as loud as ever after this Christian Science goal of sobriety is reached.

If sobriety were the real goal in life, then the Vedic religion would not exist, founded as it was on the psychedelic insights provided by plant medicine. Nor would much inventive literature exist without insights from outside the box of the sober mind. Besides, in the Drug War world, "sober" is a political term, because it merely describes those of us who refrain from using plant medicines of which botanically clueless politicians disapprove. One in four women are hooked on Big Pharma meds, and the Drug Warrior considers them "sober." Why? Because the Drug Warrior does not fear the anti-depressant user, since the drugs they take simply tamp down emotion and do not lead to the sort of self-insight and empowerment that could make the drug-taker a threat to modern capitalism and Big Pharma.

Former big-name "drug users" (like Howard Stern and Russell Brand) confuse the issue by renouncing "drugs" late in their career after said medications have helped them succeed -- only to write lucrative books praising the joys of sobriety. Why? Because it's verboten to even suggest that the demonized substances that they previously used had anything to do with their breakthrough in the entertainment world. The Christian Science party line of the Drug War insists that quote-unquote "drugs" (that is to say substances of which politicians disapprove) could have been nothing but hindrances to the performers and that all true talent will come out under the influence of sobriety -- which of course is a psychologically absurd supposition given the power of the depressed and masochistic human mind to induce the sober individual to fail -- a psychological tendency which Edgar Allan Poe described in some detail over 150 years ago but one which "the schools" as he called them, then as now, continue to ignore.

Of course the very idea that using drugs means you're not "sober" is itself absurd. Jules Verne and HG Wells wrote their best work while consuming Coca Wine. Although the Drug Warrior would insist that a coca user is not sober, the reality is that their mental focus and creativity were at a peak while using the drug. So the drug user's use of the term 'sober' is hypocritical, just as hypocritical as their definition of 'drugs,' which does not encompass the most dangerous substances in America, namely tobacco and alcohol which together kill about half a million Americans annually -- and doesn't help anybody write great literature either!

Author's Follow-up: July 29, 2022

Sometimes the opposite of what the Drug Warrior says is so blatantly true that you expect the Drug Warrior to pause you in the middle of your complaints, saying: "No, I'm just messin' with ya, dude. Of course the Drug War is absolute nonsense."

But the Drug War has lasted more than 100 years now, making things worse every year through massive incarceration, the creation of cartels and gangs, the censoring of science, and the wholesale denial of hundreds of mood-altering godsends to the depressed and anxious, etc. It begs the question, what is the Drug War REALLY for? After all, it is achieving the very opposite of its purported goals, for presumably it was designed to keep Americans from "doing drugs," and yet America is now the most drug-taking country in human history, with 1 in 4 American women chemically dependent on Big Pharma "meds" for life. Meanwhile America alone is racking up half a million deaths a year from tobacco and alcohol. You might say that the Drug War "succeeded" in steering Americans away from opium, but it did so by shunting would-be opium users off onto far more dangerous and addictive Big Pharma meds. Why did this happen? Because drug Warriors fail to realize that you can outlaw certain substances but you cannot outlaw the impulse for self-transcendence. You can, however, make self-transcendence far more dangerous to achieve, especially when you prefer to indoctrinate people with fear campaigns rather than telling them the God's-honest truth about all "drugs," anti-depressants included: the truths not only about the endlessly described down sides of demonized medicines, but about the benefits of their use as well as described by actual users.

Next essay: How Psychiatry and the Drug War turned me into an eternal patient
Previous essay: Enough Drug War Propaganda Movies Already

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old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

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. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.

It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it 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.

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
  • 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
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • 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
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • 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
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at