Essay date: June 24, 2022

Elderly Victims of Drug War Ideology

 In a world in which scientists were free to work with any medicine that held prima facie promise in ameliorating my mother's anxiety, there would be all sorts of anti-anxiety therapies and trials underway in America.

y 94-year-old mother is in a memory care facility, where she often complains to me of having "knots" in her stomach, which is her way of saying that she is anxious as hell. This complaint always depresses me because I know that in a Drug War society, there is absolutely nothing that medical science can (or rather WILL) do for her. Why not? Because the Drug War has outlawed all the psychoactive medicine that might be of help to her in a non-addictive fashion. But it's really worse than that, because the Drug War ideology of substance demonization keeps us from even considering the ways that such medicines might help.

Like all good Americans, the stateside doctors have been indoctrinated since childhood to despise mother nature's psychoactive pharmacy. They probably even got a teddy bear from the state police during grade school as their reward for saying no to mother nature's godsend medicines. As for Big Pharma, they make their money off of addictive and dependence-causing medications, so they're of no help. To the contrary, the Drug War shunts thousands of women off onto such addictive meds because that's the only legal road that Drug War prohibition leaves open for the relief of such anxiety. That's why the Betty Fords of the world become hooked on Valium, not because drugs are bad per se (as Americans like to think) but because the Drug War has outlawed all but the intentionally addictive kinds of drugs, those for which dependency is not a "bug" but a feature.

In a world in which scientists were free to work with any medicine that held prima facie promise in ameliorating my mother's anxiety, there would be all sorts of anti-anxiety therapies and trials underway in America, first and foremost using drugs like MDMA and psychedelics, in all sorts of regimens, doses, settings, and overall approaches. At the risk of giving drug-hating Americans a stroke, the approaches could even include the non-addictive use of coca and opium. For drug-war propaganda notwithstanding, drugs like coca and opium can be used non-addictively. That surely comes as such a shock to brainwashed Drug Warriors that I'd better repeat that sentence in order to let it sink in: drugs like coca and opium can be used non-addictively.

Such therapy sounds impossible to westerners who are used to playing a passive role in their recovery from illness. If they have condition "A," they expect to take pill "B" for a cure and then sit back and let pharmacology do all the heavy lifting. But if we get out of the materialist habit of referring dysphoric emotional states to "illness," then we can begin imagining anxiety and depression cures of a shamanic nature in which a pharmacologically savvy "empath" works with a specific individual to craft a drug-using plan that alleviates anxiety without addicting the "patient" to the various nostrums thus employed.

The only way that we can do this and begin helping folks like my mother is to abandon the anti-scientific Drug War notion that psychoactive substances can be judged a priori as being good or evil, without regard for precisely how they are used: in what doses, what settings, for what reasons, for which people, etc. etc. To put it another way: pharmacologically clueless politicians like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan should no longer have the last word in deciding what medicines are available for giving my mother peace of mind.

I know this is "a big ask," because helping my mom (and future anxious mothers like her) requires not simply the re-legalization of Mother Nature's bounty, it also requires our abandonment of the illness paradigm in which "patients" are considered to be interchangeable units, each theoretically amenable to the exact same addictive Big Pharma treatment, a treatment in which the patient's one and only job is to swallow pills (and don't get me started on the absurd amount of ineffective pills that Big Pharma has my mother swallowing on a daily basis). Only a shamanic approach (or more precisely, an approach informed by shamanistic holism) can lead us to the individualized therapies that can successfully leverage the vast relegalized pharmacy of Mother Nature for the benefit of the anxious (as well as the depressed, the lonely, etc.).

Until then, we may as well live in the Dark Ages when it comes to treating anxiety in the elderly (or in anyone else for that matter). The Drug War simply forbids us to treat such conditions effectively, the same way that it reduces our treatment for addiction to cold turkey and Narcan. Such shabby and stinting "non-treatments" give the lie to America's claimed status as a scientific and forward-looking country.

How do Americans live with themselves, knowing that the Drug War that they endorse is allowing for so much unnecessary emotional suffering in the world, if not for themselves, then for their friends and loved ones? I suspect that it has something to do with our Puritan heritage which tells us that there is a moral value in suffering, and so at some fundamental religious level, we would rather see our loved ones suffer than to see them achieving peace of mind using the kinds of medicines that our forebears have always associated with witchcraft and "savages." But that's a subject for another essay.

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


Right. In fact, the drug war can be seen as a way for conservatives to keep America's eyes OFF the prize. The right-wing motto is, "Billions for law enforcement, but not one cent for social programs."
Next essay: Attention American Screenwriters: please stop spreading Drug War propaganda
Previous essay: Open letter to Kenneth Sewell

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(seemingly useful organizations)

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