Essay date: November 11, 2022

Capitalism and the Drug War Pt 2

Twitter user plucked my last nerve last night by opining that the talk about psychedelics was nothing but the self-interested hype that is omnipresent in the unbridled capitalist economy of today. Although there was a lot of truth to that observation, I have never seen a Twitter post that so aggressively tossed a poor little innocent baby out with his bath water. The fact is that psychedelics have inspired entire religions, even in the western tradition at Eleusis. They gave Plato his view of the afterlife and allowed Francis Crick to visualize the DNA helix. While capitalism is sure to bring psychedelic hucksters to the fore, it does not follow that psychedelics themselves are mere placebos or worse. It simply means that we need to read the relevant literature to separate facts from sales pitches. As for the Twitter user in question, s/he seems to have read plenty about the downsides of capitalism while ignoring the admittedly well-hidden role of psychedelics in world history.

The skeptic who really wants to make a case against capitalism should highlight the bizarre approval of ketamine to treat depression, a drug that is known to cause urinary problems in long- and even moderate-term users. I say ketamine is "known" to cause urinary problems, but this information is completely hidden from a depressed person who searches for "ketamine" on Google. Why? Because Google's capitalist algorithms automatically take you to pay-to-play sites of hucksters who seek to profit handsomely from providing ketamine to the depressed at ridiculously high prices, considering the relatively low cost of "special K" on the street. The determined researcher will eventually find out that there are a host of scientific websites, especially in Asia, that discuss the urinary problems associated with ketamine, but these cautionary sites are hidden from the very people who need to read them: those who search for "depression treatments" and "ketamine."

This is why all psychoactive medicines should be available on a non-profit basis, so that no one will have a vested interest in lying about them, neither by demonizing them a priori (like the Drug Warrior always does) or by overselling their safety and benefits (which is the MO of the capitalist huckster).

I said above that the approval of ketamine was bizarre. Why? Well, take me, for instance. I am a chronic depressive who has waited four decades now for the US government to "approve" the bounty of mother nature which grows all around me and which has inspired entire religions around the globe. After 40 long years, the FDA still tells me that it is too dangerous for me to access these time-honored meds, and yet they give me the go-ahead to access a recently developed synthesized anesthetic that causes incontinence and kidney problems in even moderate-term users. One can only assume that there was self-interested wheeling and dealing behind that decision, not just "facts."

This is what happens when we follow the advice of folks like Neo Drug Warrior Kevin Sabet who calls for government to continue deciding which substances we can use, naively thinking that it can and will decide based on the facts.

Nonsense. A fact-based approach to psychoactive medicines is never going to happen in a country that advertises Big Pharma pills like candy on prime-time television. Like Lieutenant Kaffee in "A Few Good Men," unbridled capitalists cannot HANDLE the truth when it comes to psychoactive medicine. Instead, they practice an anti-scientific policy of demonizing criminalized "drugs" based on one-off horror stories that make a big stink in the press, meanwhile ignoring the millions that are suffering in silence for want of the medicines that the capitalists are thus bad-mouthing out of all context. But then context is always ignored by our so-called scientific establishment. Thanks to this willful blindness, today's drug researchers can take one single horror story about marijuana -- like the fact that it was supposedly implicated in a recent death by overdose -- and claim that this story represents a knock-down argument in favor of outlawing pot. Really? There are thousands of deaths around the globe every year that are associated with aspirin. Does that constitute a knockdown argument in favor of outlawing aspirin? Of course not. The hypocrisy of scientists in this regard can only be explained with reference to an unacknowledged ideological bias on their part against the substance upon which they purport to be "scientifically" opining.

Besides, science and facts should not have the final say when it comes to the approval of psychoactive medicines. Why not? Because safety is only ONE of the factors that a potential user considers in deciding whether to partake of a psychoactive substance. Moreover, safety is never the PRIMARY consideration. Safety comes in second place to the potential user's goal of achieving self-actualization in life and/or self-understanding or self-improvement. Take an actor, for instance. If they suffer from debilitating stage fright which coca could help them overcome, they could make a perfectly rational decision to use the substance despite the risks. The FDA would say this is unsafe, but the FDA is not looking at the full circumstances of the case. Any fair evaluation of such situations must include the fact that actors would lose their job and have their family go hungry were they unable to perform as needed -- not to mention the fact that they would feel like absolute crap. But these latter down sides of NOT using drugs are never considered by the academics that we ask to "scientifically" evaluate drug safety. The scientist says, "Just the facts," but the potential user says, "Just the self-actualization," or "Just the necessary achievement so that I can hold my head up high and feed my family."

Needless to say, this unscientific demonizing of criminalized medicines helps perpetuate the capitalist myth that there are two types of substances in the world: "drugs," which are bad at all times, in all situations, at any dose, for any person -- and "meds," which are so scientific and flawless that it is our medical duty to take them every day of our lives.

In his 2021 book on psilocybin mushrooms, researcher William Griffiths tells us that the jury is still out on whether psilocybin is addictive, or rather on whether it CAN be addictive. As usual, though, scientists are considering this question out of all context. As Griffiths himself acknowledges, any substance can be habit-forming given the complexity of human psychology. But scientists behave as if they need to merely identify a handful of actual psilocybin addictions in order to justifiably outlaw the substance for everyone, again based on some unacknowledged metaphysical bias against the substance in question. They thereby scheme to deny godsend medicine to millions based on a handful of negative outcomes, most of which are caused by the pharmacological ignorance that the Drug War encourages, for the Drug Warrior asks us to fear "drugs," not to understand them. Moreover, this concern on the part of psilocybin researchers about potential addiction is entirely disingenuous. Why? Because these same researchers have never even noticed the fact that 1 in 4 American women are dependent upon Big Pharma meds for life. If dependency is a problem, surely that latter fact describes a full-blown pharmacological dystopia.

So, while I denounce that Twitter user for throwing the psychedelic baby out with the bath water of capitalism, I have to admit that the water in question is rank indeed. That's why the government should recuse itself entirely from deciding what medicines we can use and let civilians decide such things for themselves, ideally with the help of a drug information clearing house called the Drug EDUCATION Agency, which would take the ignominious place of the Drug ENFORCEMENT Agency, (after we abolish it and put its leaders on trial for knowingly lying about Mother Nature's bounty for the last 40-plus years). Of course, the idea of letting humans decide what substances they will ingest seems novel and troubling in today's Drug War society, where racist Chicken Littles have been shouting the supposed danger of the hypocritically defined category called "drugs" for the last 100+ years. But the change is truly a conservative one, for it merely realigns our approach to "drugs" to the consensus view held by humanity for millennia prior to 1914: namely that substance misuse is the result of poor education, not the result of the intrinsically evil nature of the modern boogieman called "drugs."

Next essay: Teenagers and Cannabis
Previous essay: How the Cato Institute is Bamboozled by Drug War Propaganda

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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.

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)
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