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America's Puritan Obsession with Sobriety

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

February 21, 2021

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.

Author's Follow-up: January 9, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

Most of us have seen a young child being verbally abused by their parent in a grocery store -- often for behavior that is simply childlike and need not have incurred censure in the first place, let alone been roundly denounced by an adult so loudly that the entire food store can hear. I don't know about you, but I always think of the years ahead for such a child during which they will be subjected to these unnecessary harangues and how such usage on the part of their parents is sure to monkey around with that child's self-image. This is sobriety for them: this is the "real" world, one in which positive expressions of interest in the world are loudly chastised.

The recipients of such rebukes do not need sobriety as an adult, they need a way to get outside of their own mind for a moment in order to learn to what games they have been subjected by an incompetent (if perhaps well-meaning) parent. And this is something that "drugs" can facilitate, above all when wisely used. And yet wise use is illegal these days -- and research on such drug-aided psychological liberation is almost unthinkable. This Christian Science outlook must be revealed for what it is and dismantled. This superstitious demonization of godsend substances must give way to a concern for human health and happiness and a re-learning of the basic fact of life: that substances are neither good nor bad except with regard to the details of their specific uses.

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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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

Prohibitionists have blood on their hands. People do not naturally die in the tens of thousands from opioid use, notwithstanding the lies of 19th-century missionaries in China. It takes bad drug policy to accomplish that.
Psychiatrists keep flipping the script. When it became clear that SSRIs caused dependence, instead of apologizing, they told us we need to keep taking our meds. Now they even claim that criticizing SSRIs is wrong. This is anti-intellectual madness.
The Drug War is one big entrapment scheme for poor minorities. Prohibition creates an economy that hugely incentivizes drug dealing, and when the poor fall for the bait, the prohibitionists rush in to arrest them and remove them from the voting rolls.
Just think how much money bar owners in the Old West would have saved on restoration expenses if they had served MDMA instead of whiskey.
Today's Washington Post reports that "opioid pills shipped" DROPPED 45% between 2011 and 2019..... while fatal overdoses ROSE TO RECORD LEVELS! Prohibition is PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE.
Alexander Shulgin is a typical westerner when he speaks about cocaine. He moralizes about the drug, telling us that it does not give him "real" power. But so what? Does coffee give him "real" power? Coke helps some, others not. Stop holding it to this weird metaphysical standard.
I looked up the company: it's all about the damn stock market and money. The FDA outlaws LSD until we remove all the euphoria and the visions. That's ideology, not science. Just relegalize drugs and stop telling me how much ecstasy and insight I can have in my life!!
The benefits of entheogens read like the ultimate wish-list for psychiatrists. It's a shame that so many of them are still mounting a rear guard action to defend their psychiatric pill mill -- which demoralizes clients by turning them into lifetime patients.
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."
Many articles in science mags need this disclaimer: "Author has declined to consider the insights gained from drug-induced states on this topic out of fealty to Christian Science orthodoxy." They don't do this because they know readers already assume that drugs will be ignored.
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How Psychiatry and the Drug War turned me into an eternal patient
In Praise of Doctor Feelgood
In praise of doctor hopping
MDMA for Psychotherapy
Replacing Psychiatry with Pharmacologically Savvy Shamanism
The Drug War and Electroshock Therapy
The Myth of the Addictive Personality
The Prozac Code
Time to Replace Psychiatrists with Shamans
Doctor Feel Bad
Psychedelics and Depression
Drug Use as Self-Medication
This is your brain on Effexor
Depression is real, says the APA, and they should know: they cause it!
The Mental Health Survey that psychiatrists don't want you to take
The Depressing Truth About SSRIs
Don't Worry, Be Satisfied
America's Great Anti-Depressant Scam
The Origins of Modern Psychiatry
Modern Addiction Treatment as Puritan Indoctrination
Why Rick Doblin is Ghosting Me
Lord Save us from 'Real' Cures
Disease Mongering in the age of the drug war
The War on Drugs and the Psychiatric Pill Mill
What Jim Hogshire Got Wrong about Drugs
Tapering for Jesus
America's Anti-scientific Standards for Psychotherapeutic Medicine
How the Drug War turned me into an eternal patient
The Whistle Blower who NOBODY wants to hear
It's the Psychedelics, Stupid!
So, you're thinking about starting on an SSRI...

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You have been reading an article entitled, America's Puritan Obsession with Sobriety published on February 21, 2021 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)