Essay date: September 20, 2023

How Prohibition Causes Addiction

o say that addiction is a brain disorder is bad science, but even worse philosophy. It's just a little convenient that addiction should be diagnosed in precisely those cases where people show a marked predilection for substances of which politicians disapprove. This label of addiction, moreover, represents a judgment about what constitutes the good life. When we say that addiction is wrong, we are saying basically that the search for self-transcendence is pathological, that one should be happy with the world as it is without drugs that give insight into higher realms, that the mind should not be improved. This, of course, is a sociopolitical/aesthetic/religious judgment, not a scientific one, the more so in that society holds muddled views about self-transcendence. Society believes that some kids need a form of speed called Ritalin in order to concentrate in class while simultaneously believing that no adult human beings ever require a similar boost in their powers of mentation. That's a logically incoherent position. And even if the search for self-transcendence has negative consequences in one's life, we cannot fairly evaluate any given case without first acknowledging the role that prohibition itself played in rendering use problematic. How? By strictly limiting the quality and quantity of available drugs while insisting that it's defeatist treason in the war on drugs to teach safe use.

Addiction, in fact, is a natural result of prohibition. The outlawing of mind-enhancing drugs leads to a severe limit in the substances to which an illicit user has access. No wonder users get stuck on one specific drug: they had to leap huge dangerous hurdles just to have access to that one specific choice; they do not have a smorgasbord of obvious alternatives from which to choose. Nor should this come as a surprise. After all, a trillion-dollar effort is underway to ensure that users have no illicit options whatsoever.

We believe that addiction is an almost insurmountable disorder because we are blind to the ways that this phenomenon could be treated or even nipped in the bud. Why? Because to combat addiction, we need to be willing and able to use drugs to fight drugs, and that's something that today's indoctrinated doctors cannot imagine, having been programmed by their government since grade-school in the drug-hating ideology of Mary Baker Eddy. Doctors have this anti-scientific belief that drugs as chemically different as MDMA and coca are basically all the same thing: i.e., "drugs," in the pejorative sense of that word. And so they are blind to a vast array of therapies that would be common sense for anyone who was not a member of the Cult of the American Drug War.

Our therapeutic imaginations have been stunted by Drug War prejudices. Here is a list of a few of the many drug-enabled treatments that our "addicts" might undergo - or rather CHOOSE to undergo - in a world in which politicians no longer control how (and how much) we are allowed to think and feel in this life:

  1. The use of MDMA to inspire faith in humanity and compassion for others

  2. The use of morphine to inspire a surreal appreciation of Mother Nature (See Poe's "Tale of the Ragged Mountains")

  3. The use of opium in order to gain perspective on one's life and jog one's creative faculties

  4. The use of salvia to encounter encouraging "spirits" from another world (thereby following up the work left us by William James himself in investigating the true nature of reality)

  5. A trip on DMT to divert the mind, encounter "spirits," etc., maybe even get hints about ultimate realities

  6. A trip on psilocybin to help clarify one's goals in life

I can feel Euro-Americans cringing at these suggestions. After all, did we not travel west over 500 years ago in order to bully the locals into renouncing their quest for drug-inspired transcendence? And where would the addiction industry be today if everyone had the right to use substances of which politicians disapprove?

What I'm writing about here is the process of obfuscation. Is the drug you're using causing problems (besides the many caused by prohibition itself)? Then let's distract your mind with the effects of a wide variety of other substances.

Right now, drug law basically gives the user one choice: use your poison of choice or use nothing at all. But in a free world, we would be able to crowd the field of use with so many diverse substances that there would no longer be the monomaniacal focus on one specific drug which is said to be the hallmark of addiction. And if the predilection is for opioids, fine. We would teach the user how that taste can be accommodated safely and sanely with the nightly smoking of opium.

Unfortunately, Drug Warriors prefer that we be ignorant about drugs instead and fear them. And now they are pointing to the very downsides of that inane policy as a reason to continue their war on drugs.

The Drug War is a superstition: it tells us that substances that we call "drugs" have no positive uses for anyone, at any dose, for any reason, in any circumstance, ever. In reality, there are no substances of that kind on earth. Even cyanide has positive uses.

Until modern science rejects this superstition, society will remain blind to an awesome list of drug-enabled psychoactive therapies that is limited only by our imagination, an imagination, alas, which has been atrophied thus far by the western world's religious and cultural disdain for altered states.

This prejudice will be hard to shake, of course, since the philosophy of the West (with a few notable exceptions such as William James) has always ignored the power of psychoactive medicines to teach us anything at all. Post-Enlightenment philosophers like Kant, for instance, tell us ex-cathedra that there are severe limits to what we can know about ultimate reality, but they knew nothing about the hints and road signs that appear to users of drugs like salvia, peyote, ayahuasca, LSD and ibogaine. Hume seemed to share Kant's ignorance on this topic, but that did not stop him from quickly dismissing drugs as an impractical way to change culture. Marx at least indirectly recognized the power of drugs when he told us that religion was the opiate of the masses. Unfortunately, he never stopped to consider what the world might be like if opium itself were the opiate of the masses, as Jim Hogshire suggested. The 20th century might have been a lot less bloody had everyday folk been minding their own business and seeking liberation on the mental front rather than listening in rapture as demagogues agitated on behalf of a highly speculative interpretation of the philosophy of Friedrich Hegel.

Author's Follow-up: November 13, 2023

Jim Hogshire told us In 1999 that there were already sleep cures for opium addiction, that reduced much of the time and suffering of physical dependency upon opiates. Imagine how such treatments could blossom in a world where they were studied full-time and in which the use of ANY substance was encouraged provided that it held out hope for the individuals concerned. Imagine a world in which we spent billions on research rather than incarceration. As far as psychological dependency, there is no reason for such a phenomena in which all substances are legal and we encourage understanding. In that case, it takes merely a little creativity to develop any number of protocols to divert the attention of a would-be psychological "addict" with substances that elate and inspire and take the individual's mind completely off of the substance that might otherwise threaten to become a problem drug.

But Drug Warriors rely on addiction as their trump card to inspire a superstitious fear of drugs, so that they can continue to win elections by screaming about law and order, thereby incarcerating their political enemies by first tempting the poor with the massive profits of prohibition and then following up by arresting them and removing them from the voting rolls.

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


The government causes problems for those who are habituated to certain drugs. Then they claim that these problems are symptoms of an illness. Then folks like Gabriel Mate come forth to find the "hidden pain" in "addicts." It's one big morality play created by drug laws.
Prohibition turned habituation into addiction by creating a wide variety of problems for users, including potential arrest, tainted or absent drug supply, and extreme stigmatization.
Chesterton wrote that, once you begin outlawing things on grounds of health, you open a Pandora's box. This is because health is not a quality, it's a balance. To decide legality based on 'health' grounds thus opens a Pandora's box of different points of view.
Chesterton might as well have been speaking about the word 'addiction' when he wrote the following: "It is useless to have exact figures if they are exact figures about an inexact phrase."
We don't need people to get "clean." We need people to start living a fulfilling life. The two things are different.
Until we legalize ALL psychoactive drugs, there will be no such thing as an addiction expert. In the meantime, it's insulting to be told by neuroscience that I'm an addictive type. It's pathologizing my just indignation at psychiatry's niggardly pharmacopoeia.
Until we get rid of all these obstacles to safe and informed use, it's presumptuous to explain problematic drug use with theories about addiction. Drug warriors are rigging the deck in favor of problematic use. They refuse to even TEACH non-problematic use.
ME: "What are you gonna give me for my depression, doc? MDMA? Laughing gas? Occasional opium smoking? Chewing of the coca leaf?" DOC: "No, I thought we'd fry your brain with shock therapy instead."
Next essay: The Drug War Imperialism of Richard Evans Schultes
Previous essay: Prohibition Spectrum Disorder

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How Addiction Scientists Reckon without the Drug War
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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