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How Prohibition Causes Addiction

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

September 20, 2023

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.

Next essay: The Drug War Imperialism of Richard Evans Schultes
Previous essay: Prohibition Spectrum Disorder

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Addiction Tweets

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."
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.
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.
We don't need people to get "clean." We need people to start living a fulfilling life. The two things are different.
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."
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.
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.
Using the billions now spent on caging users, we could end the whole phenomena of both physical and psychological addiction by using "drugs to fight drugs." But drug warriors do not want to end addiction, they want to keep using it as an excuse to ban drugs.
Jim Hogshire described sleep cures that make physical withdrawal from opium close to pain-free. As for "psychological addiction," there are hundreds of elating drugs that could be used to keep the ex-user's mind from morbidly focusing on a drug whose use has become problematic.
And this is before we even start spending those billions on research that are currently going toward arresting minorities.
When doctors try to treat addiction without using any godsend medicines, they are at best Christian Scientists and at worst quacks. They are like the doctors in Moliere's "M
As Moliere demonstrated in the hilarious finale, anyone can be THAT kind of doctor by mastering a little Latin and walking around pompously in the proper uniform.
Like the pompous white-coated doctor in the movie "Four Good Days" who ignores the entire formulary of mother nature and instead throws the young heroin user on a cot for 3 days of cold turkey and a shot of Naltrexone: price tag $3,000.

Prohibition Tweets

Democratic societies need to outlaw prohibition for many reasons, the first being the fact that prohibition removes millions of minorities from the voting rolls, thereby handing elections to fascists and insurrectionists.
When folks die in horse-related accidents, we need to be asking: who sold the victim the horse? We've got to crack down on folks who peddle this junk -- and ban books like Black Beauty that glamorize horse use.
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.
The goal of drug-law reform should be to outlaw prohibition. Anything short of that, and our basic rights will always be subject to veto by fearmongers. Outlawing prohibition would restore the Natural Law of Jefferson, which the DEA scorned in 1987 with its raid on Monticello.
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."
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.
If we let "science" decide about drugs, i.e. base freedom on health concerns, then tea can be as easily outlawed as beer. The fact that horses are not illegal shows that prohibition is not about health. It's about the power to outlaw certain "ways of being in the world."
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.
Then folks like Sabet will accuse folks like myself of ignoring the "facts." No, it is Sabet who is ignoring the facts -- facts about dangerous horses and free climbing. He's also ignoring all the downsides of prohibition, whose laws lead to the election of tyrants.
That's the problem with prohibition. It is not ultimately a health question but a question about priorities and sensibilities -- and those topics are open to lively debate and should not be the province of science, especially when natural law itself says mother nature is ours.
I personally hate beets and I could make a health argument against their legality. Beets can kill for those allergic to them. Sure, it's a rare condition, but since when has that stopped a prohibitionist from screaming bloody murder?
I can think of no greater intrusion than to deny one autonomy over how they think and feel in life. It is sort of a meta-intrusion, the mother of all anti-democratic intrusions.
Enforced by the blatantly rights-crushing solicitation of urine from the king's subjects, as if to underscore the fact that your very digestive system is controlled by the state.
Until prohibition ends, rehab is all about enforcing a Christian Science attitude toward psychoactive medicines (with the occasional hypocritical exception of Big Pharma meds).
Philip Jenkins reports that Rophynol had positive uses for treating mental disorders until the media called it the "date rape drug." We thus punished those who were benefitting from the drug, tho' the biggest drug culprit in date rape is alcohol. Oprah spread the fear virally.
This is the "Oprah fallacy," which has led to so much suffering. She told women they were fools if they accepted a drink from a man. That's crazy. If we are terrified by such a statistically improbable event, we should be absolutely horrified by horses and skateboards.
This hysterical reaction to rare negative events actually creates more rare negative events. This is why the DEA publicizes "drug problems," because by making them well known, they make the problems more prevalent and can thereby justify their huge budget.
The Partnership for a Death Free America is launching a campaign to celebrate the 50th year of Richard Nixon's War on Drugs. We need to give credit where credit's due for the mass arrest of minorities, the inner city gun violence and the civil wars that it's generated overseas.
In 1886, coca enthusiast JJ Tschudi referred to prohibitionists as 'kickers.' He wrote: "If we were to listen to these kickers, most of us would die of hunger, for the reason that nearly everything we eat or drink has fallen under their ban."
Drug Warriors never take responsibility for incentivizing poor kids throughout the west to sell drugs. It's not just in NYC and LA, it's in modest-sized towns in France. Find public housing, you find drug dealing. It's the prohibition, damn it!
I don't believe in the materialist paradigm upon which SSRIs were created, according to which humans are interchangeable chemical robots amenable to the same treatment for human sadness. Let me use laughing gas and MDMA and coca and let the materialists use SSRIs.
What prohibitionists forget is that every popular but dangerous activity, from horseback riding to drug use, will have its victims. You cannot save everybody, and when you try to do so by law, you kill far more than you save, meanwhile destroying democracy in the process.
Prohibition is based on two huge lies: 1) that there are no benefits to drug use; and 2) that there are no downsides to prohibition.
The 1932 movie "Scarface" starts with on-screen text calling for a crackdown on armed gangs in America. There is no mention of the fact that a decade's worth of Prohibition had created those gangs in the first place.
The worst form of government is not communism, socialism or even unbridled capitalism. The worst form of government is a Christian Science Theocracy, in which the government controls how much you are allowed to think and feel in life.
The Shipiba have learned to heal human beings physically, psychologically and spiritually with what they call "onanyati," plant allies and guides, such as Bobinsana, which "envelops seekers in a cocoon of love." You know: what the DEA would call "junk."
And where did politicians get the idea that irresponsible white American young people are the only stakeholders when it comes to the question of re-legalizing drugs??? There are hundreds of millions of other stakeholders: philosophers, pain patients, the depressed.
Yes, BUT when they say "drugs plus therapy," they don't mean drugs in general. They mean a small selection of drugs that pass muster with pharmacologically clueless politicians.
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.
There are a potentially vast number of non-addictive drugs that could be used strategically in therapy. They elate and "free the tongue" to help talk therapy really work. Even "addictive" drugs can be used non-addictively, prohibitionist propaganda notwithstanding.
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.
The DEA outlawed MDMA in 1985, thereby depriving soldiers of a godsend treatment for PTSD. Apparently, the DEA staff slept well at night in the early 2000s as American soldiers were having their lives destroyed by IEDs.
Imagine someone starting their book about antibiotics by saying that he's not trying to suggest that we actually use them. We should not have to apologize for being honest about drugs. If prohibitionists think that honesty is wrong, that's their problem.
I, for one, am actually TRYING to recommend drugs like MDMA and psilocybin as substitutes for shock therapy. In fact, I would recommend almost ANY pick-me-up drug as an alternative to knowingly damaging the human brain. That's more than the hateful DEA can say.
A pharmacologically savvy drug dealer would have no problem getting someone off one drug because they would use the common sense practice of fighting drugs with drugs. But materialist doctors would rather that the patient suffer than to use such psychologically obvious methods.
If there's any doubt about this, check out the 2021 article in Forbes in which a materialist doctor professes to doubt whether laughing gas could help the depressed. Materialists are committed to seeing the world from the POV of Spock from Star Trek.
If the depressed patient laughs, that means nothing. Materialists have to see results under a microscopic or they will never sign off on a therapy.
Oregon's drug policy is incoherent and cruel. The rich and healthy spend $4,000 a week on psilocybin. The poor and chemically dependent are thrown in jail, unless they're on SSRIs, in which case they're congratulated for "taking their meds."
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.

William James Tweets

William James knew that there were substances that could elate. However, it never occurred to him that we should use such substances to prevent suicide. It seems James was blinded to this possibility by his puritanical assumptions.
So he writes about the mindset of the deeply depressed, reifying the condition as if it were some great "type" inevitably to be encountered in humanity. No. It's the "type" to be found in a post-Christian society that has turned up its scientific nose at psychoactive medicine.

essays about

The Myth of the Addictive Personality
Addicted to Ignorance
Addicted to Addiction
America's Invisible Addiction Crisis
Open Letter to Addiction Specialist Gabriel Maté
Sherlock Holmes versus Gabriel Maté
Why Louis Theroux is Clueless about Addiction and Alcoholism
In the Realm of Hungry Drug Warriors
Modern Addiction Treatment as Puritan Indoctrination
How the Drug War Turns the Withdrawal Process into a Morality Tale
Night of the Addicted Americans
The aesthetic difference between addiction and chemical dependency
Tapering for Jesus
How Addiction Scientists Reckon without the Drug War
Four reasons why Addiction is a political term
Some Tough Love for Drug Addicts
My Cure for Addiction
The FDA's Hypocritical Concern about Addiction
Common Sense Drug Withdrawal
Fighting Drugs with Drugs

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You have been reading an article entitled, How Prohibition Causes Addiction published on September 20, 2023 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)