bird icon for twitter

How Roxane Gay has been bamboozled by drug war propaganda

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

March 29, 2024

always look with trepidation upon new books about drugs, even when the title suggests that the author is firmly on the right side of this issue, politically speaking. For I have yet to find a book on this topic by a westerner that convinces me that the author is completely free of the drug-war prejudices in which he or she has been indoctrinated since birth. And so it was that I clicked the "read now" button on the new Everand title by Gabrielle Bellot with a wary index finger. Its title sounded promising enough: "My Year of Psychedelics: Lessons on Better Living"1. And yet I knew from experience that the book was likely to promulgate at least one Drug War lie in spite of the best intentions of its creator. So I prepared myself for the moral equivalent of hearing Fu Manchu's fingernails scrape across a bone-dry blackboard, so hypersensitive am I to the seemingly endless choplogic inspired by the idiotic war on drugs. In fact, I am Roderick Usher himself on this topic, of whom Poe wrote in a paraphrase of the French poet de Béranger:

"Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne.2"

But little did I suspect how quickly my worst fears were to be realized in reading Gabrielle Bellot's new book. The fingernails of Fu Manchu were already scraping before I had gotten through the first full paragraph of the introduction by Roxane Gay:

"I am a control freak," writes Gay, "so I have always been wary of experimenting with drugs. They should absolutely be legalized, but they aren't for me. The idea of surrendering to a drug is, I suppose, entrancing, but it is also terrifying."

These three sentences are so full of drug-war assumptions that one scarcely knows where to begin in unpacking them. First of all, "drugs" are not a thing but a category (and a politically created category at that)3. The category of "drugs" includes a wide variety of substances. To say that drugs aren't for you is like saying that animals are not for you. Which drugs is Roxane talking about? At which dose? In which circumstances? Like the Drug Warriors themselves, Roxane avoids all details. The word "drugs" is thought to speak for itself, just as the word "scabs" supposedly tells us everything we need to know about strike breakers: namely, that they're rotten through and through.

She says she wants to stay in control, but drugs like morphine and meth and cocaine focus the mind, they do not blur it; they give you far more control over your mental resources than the sober mind could ever obtain. Sherlock Holmes (or Sigmund Freud, for that matter) was not out of control thanks to "drugs"; au contraire, his control of his mental resources was so laser-like that he routinely stunned his friends with the vivid capacity of his understanding4.

Edgar Allan Poe was well aware of this power of certain drugs to focus the mind, as we see from this passage in "Tale of the Ragged Mountains":

"In the meantime the morphine had its customary effect- that of enduing all the external world with an intensity of interest. In the quivering of a leaf- in the hue of a blade of grass- in the shape of a trefoil- in the humming of a bee- in the gleaming of a dew-drop- in the breathing of the wind- in the faint odors that came from the forest- there came a whole universe of suggestion- a gay and motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought.5"

Apparently such a vivid appreciation of mother nature is "not for Roxane." But why not? Does she think a so-so appreciation of Mother Nature is enough for her? What about music? Would she rather not enjoy it too much? She no doubt subscribes to the Drug War trope that such substances can only be used unwisely, a huge lie that she has been brainwashed to believe since grade school.

And what made Gay feel "out of control" in the first place? She had a "bad trip" on marijuana. But WHY did she have a bad trip? She had a bad trip because she took a ridiculously large dose of marijuana and had no one around to guide her first experience of the drug: that is a double no-no that any educated person would be sure to avoid but which the Drug War makes inevitable by refusing to teach safe use. And why is Roxane blaming her bad experience on the drug itself? That is so "Drug War" of her. The problem was Roxane's poor use of the drug, not the drug itself. It's as if the celebrity had taken an overdose of penicillin and concluded that "antibiotics are not for me." No, Roxane: Overdoses are not for you - nor for anybody. That's why we need to teach safe use. . (She actually did worse than blame her problems on the drug itself, she blamed it on "drugs" in general!)

Roxane does not realize that she has been taught her fear of psychoactive substances from childhood. It is not a natural feeling that she just happens to possess. It is the politically correct way of viewing the world in the west and contrasts sharply with the tribal view of psychoactive medicines as gifts from god. She says she is a control freak, but that's a condition that drugs themselves could cure if she were open to change. Psychedelics in particular help one see themselves with objectivity and thereby suggest concrete ways that one can rise above bad habits and thought patterns. Mycologist Paul Stamets got over his teenage stuttering problem in one afternoon of shroom use6. To say that "drugs are not for you" is like saying personal improvement is not for you.

Of course, these are criticisms of Roxane and not of the book itself. But such a drug-leery introduction makes me wonder if Roxane actually read Gabrielle's book. I almost hope that she has not, because if she came away from the book with such a low estimate of the potential value of "drugs" to improve one's life, then either she is a poor reader or Gabrielle is a poor author. For let's face it: no country has ever yet set out to deliberately find ways to profit from all the psychoactive medicine in the world -- and there are hundreds of such natural medicines still to be found "out there," to say nothing of the drugs that might be synthesized from them. How can Roxane conclude in advance of such research that "drugs" are not for her? Is she a fortune teller? Does she already know what will be possible in the future, therapeutically and spiritually speaking, and has she decided that she wants no such benefits in her life?

Not only is Roxane in thrall to a variety of mendacious Drug War beliefs (like the idea that "drugs" is a scientific category and that psychoactive substances can be judged "good" or "bad" without regard to dosage, setting, reason for use, etc...) but she also appears to be ignorant of the following salient facts:

that William James himself said that we must study altered states in order to understand reality7; that the Incan culture revolved around the ritual use of the coca plant8; that the psychedelic-fueled Eleusinian mysteries lasted for 2,000 consecutive years9, influencing western luminaries like Plato and Cicero, until it was tellingly outlawed as a threat to Christianity by Emperor Theodosius in the 4th century AD. Moreover, all tribal peoples have used drugs, a fact which adds a layer of cultural imperialism to the western war against such substances10.

We need to demand legalization, not so that a few white hippies can have a little fun, but so that academic and religious freedom can be restored to America and the world, so that the 4th Amendment can be restored against unreasonable search, and so that hitherto chronic conditions like autism, anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer's can be treated with mind-easing and neuron-growing substances. We need legalization so that drugs like MDMA can be used to prevent school shootings - not to mention nuclear annihilation - by creating empathic feelings between strangers.

This is why the Drug War is anathema: not because it keeps hippies from having fun but because it bars human progress - and that's a much stronger argument for re-legalization than merely asserting our right to alter our consciousness for some cheap thrills.

That's why the first step toward legalization of drugs (or rather toward their re-legalization) is for brainwashed Americans like Roxane Gay to deprogram themselves of the many drug-war assumptions which continue to cloud their minds thanks to a lifetime of indoctrination by the drug-hating powers that be, both in mass media and the government.

Author's Follow-up: March 29, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

I just added a quick review of "My Year of Psychedelics" on Everand -- focusing specifically on Roxane's irritating introduction of the same. I say a "quick" review because I'm tired of thinking about that irritating intro, so I wrote the following rather quickly, and, as it were, a trifle petulantly, I'm afraid...

Roxane Gay has been bamboozled by Drug War propaganda. She overdosed on marijuana and so she concluded that "drugs were not for her"? That's like a person getting bitten by a snake and concluding that animals were not for her. "Drugs" is a category, not a thing. There are endless kinds of psychoactive substances, many of which humanity has not even discovered yet. How can Roxane say they are not for her? Is she a fortune teller? Drugs inspired the Hindu religion, they brought unprecedented peace to rave concerts, they inspired the Eleusinian mysteries which were attended by such western luminaries as Plato and Cicero. Drugs like MDMA could help end school shootings and suicides. Drugs can change people's lives for the better. Paul Stamets stopped stuttering as a teenager after one afternoon of consuming mushrooms. Don't blame drugs, Roxane, blame ignorance.

Roxane's a control freak?

Many drugs focus the mind, giving one an almost surreal sense of control. Yet Roxane thinks we can judge drugs "up" or "down"? That's a Drug Warrior lie. Context matters. So she od'd on marijuana: don't blame marijuana -- and definitely don't blame ALL drugs. Blame the Drug Warriors who refuse to teach safe use. Marijuana is not bad. Drugs are not bad. OVERDOSING is bad.

Roxane would not say that "drugs were not for her" had she gone to Peru's Sacred Valley and drank the tonic from the Huachuma Cactus. These plants were put on earth for a purpose, Roxane, and not merely to lead human beings astray. Our brain chemistry is set up to benefit and even learn from such plants. It's natural. Criminalizing Mother Nature is what is unnatural.


1 Gay, Roxane, Roxane Gay & Everand Originals: My Year of Psychedelics: Lessons on Better Living, Everand, 2024 (up)
2 de Béranger, Pierre-Jean, Le Refus, French Wikisource, 1839 (up)
3 Quass, Brian, There are no such things as drugs, 2020 (up)
4 Quass, Brian, Sherlock Holmes versus Gabriel Maté, 2022 (up)
5 Poe, Edgar Allan, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, (up)
6 Stamets, Paul, Fantastic Fungi: The Big-Screen Revival Tour, (up)
7 James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Philosophical Library, New York, 1902 (up)
8 Mortimer MD, W. Golden, Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas, Ronin Publishing, Berkeley, California, 2017 (up)
9 Wasson, Gordon, The road to Eleusis: unveiling the secret of the mysteries, (up)
10 Schultes, Plants of the Gods:Origins of Hallucinogenic Use, 1979 (up)

Next essay: Getting Off of Big Pharma Meds Using Teacher Plants
Previous essay: License to Hate

More Essays Here

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.

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, How Roxane Gay has been bamboozled by drug war propaganda published on March 29, 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)