n the story "Tale of the Ragged Mountains," Edgar Allan Poe describes the astonishingly deep appreciation with which a morphine "habitue" named Augustus Bedloe was enabled to see the world around him during his morning walks in the forested mountains around Charlottesville, Virginia. We're told that the external world of this politically incorrect anti-hero was endowed "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.
Americans have been taught to shake their heads upon reading such a story and denounce Augustus Bedloe with the morally tinged epithet of "addict." But this is by no means the only sane reaction to the story. Personally, the story makes me envy Augustus Bedloe. I don't want to live my life seeing the natural world around me with bleary eyes: I want to appreciate it and understand it to the extent possible. I'm not saying that I would therefore choose to use morphine. In the absence of the Drug War, there would no doubt be plenty of less habit-forming alternatives that could be chosen to achieve the appreciation that I covet.
But I refuse to adopt the usual Drug Warrior reaction to this story, which turns it into a morality tale about addiction. The real bombshell for me is the story's revelation that there is at least one drug out there that can awaken such an enthusiasm for the natural world around us. Yet this is a lesson from the story that Americans cannot see, primed as they are by Drug War propaganda (both of omission and commission) to feel a Christian Science contempt for characters like Bedloe who avail themselves of psychoactive medicine -- especially when they do so without the blessing, or at least the reluctant toleration, of the medical industry.
As for Bedloe's habituation to morphine (what we would describe today moralistically as addiction), America has no leg to stand on in denouncing it. 1 in 4 American women are addicted to Big Pharma meds, yet this medical dystopia is completely ignored by Drug Warriors, proving that we simply do not consider addiction to be a problem per se. But if addiction is not a problem, then the real question becomes: is the substance upon which we're dependent something that is WORTH being dependent upon? As a 30-year veteran of the Big Pharma pill mill, I can tell you that the tranquilizing antidepressants of Big Pharma are most definitely not worth the lifelong dependency that they cause. And that even if they were, I would drop them in a heartbeat to accept an alternative that helped me to see Mother Nature through the eyes of Augustus Bedloe, an addiction that would be no more problematic than an addiction to SSRIs were the Drug War not in force to run interference between myself and a safe supply of my poison of choice.
In a sane America where we do not politically demonize substances, we would be excited about morphine's ability to stimulate an interest in the world around us. After learning of this godsend property, we would start asking questions that would power new research projects, such as: What other substances are out there, especially in the natural world, that can help us appreciate the world around us, and what are the safest protocols for using them. We would, of course, warn the world about the addictive potential of drugs like morphine (something that psychiatry failed to do when they introduced what turned out to be their extremely addictive SSRIs), but in a sane world, we would not limit our reaction to morphine to merely demonizing it. The fact that we do so is another indication that Americans live in a Christian Science theocracy where we're obliged to consider all criminalized substances as worthless, in spite of the contrary evidence that we see around us every day -- and of which we're reminded in stories written before that fatal day when American racists first started demonizing substances in order to remove minorities from the voting rolls.
Why do I care?
Because the Drug War has turned me into an eternal patient. By outlawing all the less-addictive psychoactive plant medicines of mother nature (including marijuana, the coca plant, the poppy, mushrooms, and a whole rainforest full of psychoactive medicine), the Drug Warrior has left a chronic depressive like myself with nothing but highly addictive Big Pharma meds to alter mood, and these medicines are expensive and have to be taken every day of my life. Worse yet, they are extremely demoralizing, since I have to travel 45 miles every three months of my life to visit a doctor who is, at most, only half my age in order to get his or her approval to keep taking an SNRI "medication" that the NMIH has determined to be harder to quit than heroin. They might as well give me a placard to wear which reads "eternal patients." Worse yet, these drugs neither inspire me, nor increase creativity, nor prod me toward self-fulfillment in life, as can the "drugs" described by Edgar Allan Poe. Instead, they numb me to disappointments and keep me feeling tranquilized.
Author's Follow-up: April 19, 2023
Of course, there is a pedantic difference between addiction and dependency, but the power of these words to conjure bugbears is based on aesthetic judgements. We recoil from seeing an addict "craving" a drug -- but we have no problem with a chemically dependent person who merely feels like hell because their supply has been interrupted. Let them suffer in silence, it's no skin off our backs. Addicts, on the other hand, are a bother to us. They are eyesores. They may even try to rob us. But the chemically dependent user keeps their hell to themselves. We wouldn't know one if we saw one. Besides, if they're chemically dependent on Big Pharma meds, the powers-that-be are more than happy to furnish the goods that the user requires, for a price, of course, of time, money, and the user's own self-esteem and sense of empowerment in life. For who wants to be turned into an eternal patient of psychiatry? That's why we seldom see a "ragged out" Big Pharma patient -- because their medicines are eternally forthcoming from the doctor's office and CVS Pharmacy.
In fact, the very idea of an addict is a Drug War creation -- or at least a creation of a parochial view of drugs. If we truly welcomed mother nature's pharmacy and were allowed -- and even encouraged -- to find the best medicines for ourselves, there would be no addiction. There would be conditions that a puritan outsider would be eager to call "addiction," but the user would be able to employ a wide variety of drugs to obfuscate the negative effects of such a pharmacological situation and to thereby move on -- if he of she so desired, of course, for addiction is objectively wrong only to the extent that one's poison of choice is no longer, in fact, one's poison of choice. In our world, that catastrophe is treated with Naloxone and cold turkey. In a truly free world, one in which nature is considered a benefactor rather than a kingpin, we would be constantly working to give the supposed 'addict' new ways to switch courses with the help of a vast pharmacopoeia of psychoactive substances (some "natural," some not), without the gnashing of teeth that we require in today's materialist and Christian Science "addiction protocols."
The Links Police
Do you know why I stopped you? That's right, because the Drug War gives me carte blanche to be a noxious busybody. That, and I wanted to tip you off to the other essays on this topic, to wit:
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. 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. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.
It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it 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.
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.
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)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company