bird icon for twitter

Five wrong ways to think about drugs

Which are you guilty of?

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

June 21, 2024

can't speak for foreigners, but there are generally five types of people when it comes to how U.S. citizens think about drugs. Hopefully you belong to none of the following groups and so you can join me in the winner's circle below at the end of this article (beneath the heading for "Right-Thinking American", that is). But here is my list of wrongheaded Yankees when it comes to drugs. (Don't hate on me for calling out Libertarians on this one. I only do so because Milton Friedman himself said some very problematic things about drugs, at least in his early career.)

1) THE TYPICAL AMERICAN: Thinks that the Drug War is probably a bad idea, but agrees that some drugs are horrible and that people need to get off them and that drugs have very few if any benefits to offer. Believes that words like "clean" and "junk" and "dope" are actually unbiased terminology. Some in this category are slowly wakening to the idea that drugs may have benefits, though. An example in this latter subcategory is Michael Pollan1, who still favors prohibition, though he claims to be fascinated by the potential curative powers of plants and fungi.

2) THE REDNECK AMERICAN: Thinks the Drug War is a good idea, and that anyone who does not think so is anti-American or at least stupid. Thinks that it makes sense to have alcohol and guns protected by special amendments while doing everything possible to punish the use of less inherently dangerous substances. You know, DeSantis and his tribespeople. And Trump. Sadly, Biden has come close to full-fledged membership in this class, as the promoter of the law that punished Black Americans far more harshly than whites for possession of cocaine2.

3) THE LIBERTARIAN AMERICAN: Agrees that drug use is generally a bad idea, but thinks that people have a right to go to hell in their own way. Milton Friedman stands out in this category3. In 1972, he opined that good folk can have different views about drug legalization - to which I would add, "Yes, but only if they are historically ignorant and philosophically challenged - not to mention unaware of the natural law upon which America was founded, which, if it guarantees anything, guarantees our right to what Mother Nature grows at our very feet."

4) THE MATERIALIST AMERICAN: Thinks that drugs are great for recreation but that "real" cures must come from reductionist science, that the goal is to manipulate brain chemicals rather than to treat an individual holistically. Carl Hart4 is an example. Also Rick Doblin5 and Dj Nutt6. In his book "Drug Use for Grownups," Carl insists that drug use is for recreation only and that the depressed, in effect, should just keep taking their meds.

5) THE SHAMANIC-FRIENDLY AMERICAN: Thinks that psychedelic and entheogenic drugs are wonderful, but thinks that there are no good reasons for using drugs like cocaine or opium and is often even in favor of the continued outlawing of such drugs. Terence McKenna7 is one of this sort. Also Alexander Weil8. Terence associated cocaine use with some of his dissolute friends and so concluded that it was a bad drug.

I have not bothered to specify yet where each of these groups have gone wrong when it comes to their thoughts about drugs and drug use. This is because they are all wrong in the exact same way. They believe that drugs can be judged "up" and "down," depending upon whether they are thought to be safe for American teenagers. Not all of these people would want to criminalize drugs, but they can definitely understand the impulse to criminalize them.

This is about as anti-scientific as you can get, to vote drugs "up" or "down" like this.

And it is anti-progress. It used to be common sense that all substances have positive potential uses, at some dose, in some cases, for somebody. Even cyanide has potential uses in the fight against diabetes9. When you criminalize a drug, you keep it out of the hands of researchers and visionaries who might find uses for it that we have never dreamed of. So your drug laws simply veto human progress. It's also a way to hide real problems. When we blame drugs instead of poverty or lack of housing or poor education, we try to make a virtue of our selfish and niggardly values. It shows we would rather spend money on prisons than social programs of any kind.

Also, none of these groups understand basic psychology - tho' they should not feel bad, because today's psychologists do not understand basic psychology either10. That's why progress is so glacial when it comes to the approval of psychoactive drugs. We fail to acknowledge the obvious, that drugs that cheer you up actually do cheer you up (whatever materialists may or may not observe under a microscope) - and that this is a good thing, to be cheered up, something far better than electroshock therapy or suicide11. Unfortunately, the Drug Warriors have convinced us that we can never use drugs wisely, and so we ignore the endless safe protocols that one can imagine for drug use once we re-legalize psychoactive medicine. For all drugs that elate and inspire are antidepressants when used advisedly.

In this case, drug dealers are far more knowledgeable than our dogma-ridden professionals12. And it's not just the fact that drugs can cheer you up, it's that their use is something one can look forward to, which also cheers one up. It's a virtuous circle, especially when managed in such a way that dependency need not develop for any particular substance.

But Americans have been brainwashed to think that the use of outlawed drugs will cause addiction. To the extent that this is true, however, it is BECAUSE of the Drug War, which refuses to teach safe use while also corrupting the drug supply and limiting what is available on the street to so few options that it's no surprise that dependency develops for whatever's readily available.

Of course, the Drug War is all about limiting our knowledge about drugs, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when I say that all of the members of the above groups tend to have very little knowledge of how drugs have been used for positive reasons by whole societies in the past, and, in fact, have played a vital role in the founding of religions, in Latin and South America and in India, where the psychoactive substance soma inspired the Vedic-Hindu religion13.

I hope it goes without saying that I personally disapprove of all of the group attitudes noted above. But this begs the question: what is the RIGHT way to think about drugs.

I'm glad you asked!

RIGHT-THINKING AMERICAN: Thinks that drugs are capable of marvelous things: increasing energy, renewing our interest in Mother Nature, giving us an almost surreal level of concentration, inspiring a new understanding of ourselves and helping us to get rid of counterproductive behavior patterns. Knows that drugs have inspired entire religions and that it is therefore anti-religion to outlaw such drugs. Drug use is dangerous, yes, but in the same way that horseback riding is dangerous and rock climbing and car driving. Drugs are never responsible for anything, however, as they are inanimate substances. Goodness and badness reside in how a substance is used. This group also believes that it is always wrong to demonize drugs in the abstract, because scare campaigns about irresponsible drug use have been shown to lead to more irresponsible drug use. That fact has long been used by the DEA to promulgate drug scares (think crack, ice, PCP, oxy, fentanyl...) through publicity that turns local misuse into national problems, thereby justifying the DEA's multi-billion-dollar budget14.

The media need to take these facts onboard and stop writing articles that scapegoat drugs for social problems, including anti-constitutional laws that deny us our once-obvious right to gifts of Mother Nature.


1 Quass, Brian, The Michael Pollan Fallacy, 2022 (up)
2 Stolberg, Sheryl Gay, Lock the S.O.B.s Up’: Joe Biden and the Era of Mass Incarceration, The New York Times, 2019 (up)
3 Quass, Brian, How Milton Friedman Completely Misunderstood the War on Drugs, 2023 (up)
4 Hart, Carl, Drug Use for Grownups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, (up)
5 Doblin, Rick, Maps founder Rick Doblin, (up)
6 Nutt, DJ, Drug Science, (up)
7 Quass, Brian, What Terence McKenna Got Wrong About Drugs, 2023 (up)
8 Quass, Brian, What Andrew Weil Got Wrong, 2022 (up)
9 Uncredited, Cyanide ingredient could lead to new type 2 diabetes treatment,, 2016 (up)
10 Quass, Brian, The Naive Psychology of the Drug War, 2022 (up)
11 Quass, Brian, How Scientific Materialism Keeps Godsend Medicines from the Depressed, 2022 (up)
12 Quass, Brian, In Praise of Drug Dealers, 2020 (up)
13 Marbaniang, Domenic, History of Hinduism: Prevedic and Vedic Age, 2018 (up)
14 Quass, Brian, 'Synthetic Panics' by Philip Jenkins, 2023 (up)

Next essay: Judging Drugs
Previous essay: Using plants and fungi to get off of antidepressants

More Essays Here

Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

The formula is easy: pick a substance that folks are predisposed to hate anyway, then keep hounding the public with stories about tragedies somehow related to that substance. Show it ruining lives in movies and on TV. Don't lie. Just keep showing all the negatives.
I agree that Big Pharma drugs have wrought disaster when used in psychotherapy -- but it is common sense that non-Big Pharma drugs that elate could be used to prevent suicide and obviate the need for ECT.
We need to start thinking of drug-related deaths like we do about car accidents: They're terrible, and yet they should move us to make driving safer, not to outlaw driving. To think otherwise is to swallow the drug war lie that "drugs" can have no positive uses.
It's funny to hear fans of sacred plants indignantly insisting that their meds are not "drugs." They're right in a way, but actually NO substances are "drugs." Calling substances "drugs" is like referring to striking workers as "scabs." It's biased terminology.
Science knows nothing of the human spirit and of the hopes and dreams of humankind. Science cannot tell us whether a given drug risk is worthwhile given the human need for creativity and passion in their life. Science has no expertise in making such philosophical judgements.
It's interesting that Jamaicans call the police 'Babylon,' given that Babylon denotes a society seeking materialist pleasures. Drug use is about transcending the material world and seeking spiritual states: states that the materialist derides as meaningless.
Unfortunately, the prohibitionist motto is: "Billions for arrest, not one cent for education." To the contrary, drug warriors are ideologically committed to withholding the truth about drugs from users.
Most prohibitionists think that they merely have to use the word "drugs" to win an argument. Like: "Oh, so you're in favor of DRUGS then, are you?" You can just see them sneering as they type. That's because the word "drugs" is like the word "scab": it's a loaded political term.
If politicians wanted to outlaw coffee, a bunch of Kevin Sabets would come forward and start writing books designed to scare us off the drink by cherry-picking negative facts from scientific studies.
Here are some political terms that are extremely problematic in the age of the drug war: "clean," "junk," "dope," "recreational"... and most of all the word "drugs" itself, which is as biased and loaded as the word "scab."
More Tweets

front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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

You have been reading an article entitled, Five wrong ways to think about drugs: Which are you guilty of?, published on June 21, 2024 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)