Essay date: April 9, 2022

How the Drug War Killed Amy Winehouse

How the drug war both created Amy's problems and kept us from solving them.

merica turns the fate of all supposed "drug abusers" into a morality tale about the evil of "drugs" and, by implication, the moral weakness of those who use them. But instead of asking psychologically naive questions like, "Why did Amy think she needed drugs?" (hint: it's the self-transcendence, stupid), we should be looking in the mirror, asking: "Why did WE not bother to teach her how to use drugs wisely?" For the villain of this piece is the Drug War itself, a Drug War which 1) limits Amy's available pharmacopeia to the problematic and addictive substances whose sale is incentivized by Drug War prohibition, and 2) discourages the substance-related research that could lead to safe use guidelines for all psychoactive medicines.

Of course, Amy's fate was especially easy for Christian Science America to spin into a Drug War morality tale in which "drugs" were the bad guy. One of the last songs that Amy sang contained the heretical lyrics: "He's tried to make me go to rehab, but I won't go, go, go." And at the Oscars, she was quoted as telling her friend Juliette that, "This is so boring without drugs."

When these facts were shown to contestants on Gogglebox in 2014, there was plenty of backhanded sympathy for Amy from the reality-show couch potatoes, with the general consensus being that she had unfortunately caved before the evil temptress known as "drugs."

No one ever asked the apparently heretical question: "What if we had researched all drugs that provided personal transcendence and educated Amy about how to choose among them and use them wisely?"

But Drug Warriors do not think this way because they completely ignore the motivation for drug use, which is self-transcendence. Even if they do recognize the impulse, they insist that self-transcendence must come only from supposedly "natural" sources, such as church, yoga, meditation, jogging, and the like. (The Drug Warrior might even suggest stoicism as an alternative to drugs, failing to realize that the paragon of that discipline, Marcus Aurelius, was himself a big fan of opium.) But this notion about "drugs" being unnatural or a "copout" is a mere Christian Science prejudice and not an ineluctable truth to which all intelligent humans are led upon rational reflection. It's certainly not a "truth" that would naturally occur to someone who grew up in a botanically rich rainforest.

In point of fact, the mind truly boggles at the plethora of treatment possibilities that would have been open to Amy had she been able to meet with a pharmacologically savvy empath who had unrestricted access to every psychoactive plant in the entire world. Amy might have been led through an emotionally restorative journey on psylocibin to see the world in a new way, been given something to look forward to in the form of weekly cocaine or opium use, or provided with morphine on special mental "holidays," whereby she could see the natural world in exquisite detail a la August Bedloe in "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" by Edgar Allan Poe. She could have had her head screwed back on straight with the strategic use of the drugs which Americans have been taught to scorn.

But such cures run counter to the Christian Science notion that "drugs" are evil. And so Drug War society could only sit back impotently and watch Amy's decline, as one watches a slow-motion car crash, unable to offer her anything more enticing than pious suggestions that she renounce her desire for self-transcendence and join a 12-step program instead.

How The Drug War Killed Andy Gibb

Next essay: Top 10 Problems with the Drug War
Previous essay: Why Louis Theroux is Clueless about Addiction and Alcoholism

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old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

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. 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.

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.

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
  • 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
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • 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
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • 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
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at