Essay date: September 13, 2020

How The Drug War Killed Andy Gibb

Instead of educating about drugs, the drug warrior demonizes substances as pure evil, thereby keeping users in the dark about how to use them safely

hen Andy Gibb died in 1988 due to a heart attack, America and the world took this as a knock-down argument that the cocaine he had been using at the time was an evil drug in the worst sense of that word. It was the height of Drug War mania, after all, and everyone knew that some substances were pure evil: namely those substances that politicians had decided to demonize.

Of course, cocaine was only a proximate cause of Gibb's death: the real cause was the fact that the Drug War villainized substances rather than educating potential users about how to use them safely. But for the Drug Warrior, Andy's death was just another opportunity to show Americans that criminalized substances can only cause evil.

What nonsense.

Until the Drug War began in 1914 with the effective outlawing of a plant (in violation of the natural law upon which America was founded) all intelligent people knew that psychoactive substances - everything from chocolate to belladonna - were good or bad only with respect to how they were used. If a substance caused an unwanted death, then the fault was to be found in a lack of knowledge about the way to use that substance wisely, not in the supposed evil nature of the substance itself.

Besides, the Drug War took not just one, but two steps to ensure Andy's death: first it failed to educate him (and the world) about the proper use of cocaine (as in, keep an eye on your blood pressure while using it!), and then it compounded this mistake by outlawing all the psychoactive substances that Andy might have used instead as a less heart-thumping alternative, were Andy seeking, as we all do at times, an escape from "full-on reality" and excessive introspection.

Consider the absurd result of this Drug Warrior view on psychoactive substances. The Drug Warrior need associate only one single solitary death with a substance that politicians have demonized, and that correlation is taken to be a decisive argument in favor of that substance being criminalized for now and all time - not just in America, but around the world - with the American Empire traveling overseas unbidden to burn those plants that continue to grow in once-sovereign countries despite America's edict against the same.

Thanks to the Drug Warrior's creation of this all-purpose scapegoat known as "drugs," millions - perhaps billions - of the depressed - and those who simply want to improve their mental life - must go without a powerful nature-provided substance: all because of the addle-brained Drug War logic which says in effect "one strike and you're out" if you are a substance that has been demonized by politicians.

And so Andy Gibb's cocaine-related death in 1988 helped do for cocaine what Leah Betts' Ecstasy-related death was to do for Ecstasy in 1995: it made that latter drug effectively unavailable to anyone for any reason, all because it had caused one single death - a death which, like Andy's, would have been avoided if Drug Warriors had educated people about the substance in question rather than spending their time demonizing it. Had Andy been educated about cocaine, he would have paid attention to his blood pressure while using it; had Leah been educated about Ecstasy, she would have paid attention to her body's hydration levels while using it.

But the Drug Warrior is interested in demonizing substances, not giving the world objective information about how to use them safely.

Why? Because the minute we start being fully honest about drug effects, we would have to come to terms with the fact that one in four American women are addicted to Big Pharma meds. We would have to acknowledge that SSRIs do NOT fix some chemical imbalance in the brain but rather cause that very imbalance. (See books by Richard Whitaker, Irving Kirsch and Julie Holland on this topic.) We would have to acknowledge the fact that Ecstasy is one of the safest drugs in the world, statistically speaking, and that cocaine itself has many positive effects (subjectively speaking) and that its evil effects can be avoided or reduced by wise use. So instead of arming potential users with this dangerous truth (a truth that would actually empower Americans), the Drug Warrior does everything they can to insist that there are two types of psychoactive substances in the world: divine "meds" created by Big Pharma (which are so safe that it's our duty as health-minded Americans to take them daily as directed) and evil "drugs" created by Mother Nature (which it is our duty to scorn out of hand without asking questions).

That's why Americans have been taught to hate cocaine and opium and psychedelics - by the propaganda tactic known as "omission," thanks to which all demonstrations of the wise use of those substances is removed from history, from TV shows, from movies. Meanwhile almost all authors unconsciously collaborate with the Drug War by never mentioning any of these substances in a positive light - despite the fact that all of them have had positive effects, historically speaking. In fact, it was almost illegal to mention "drugs" positively in the '60s. Psychedelics, for just one small instance, are well known to dramatically improve one's ability to appreciate music, but one will search in vain for authors who argue for the use of such substances in modern pedagogy: such advice is literally unthinkable in a culture that has been taught (chiefly by this propaganda of omission) to view nature's plant medicines with Christian Science suspicion and disdain. (Ed Sullivan only let the Doors sing "Light My Fire" on his live show if they promised to remove the reference to getting "much higher," a promise which Jim Morrison reneged on at showtime, leaving Sullivan fuming in the wings at Studio 50.)

The Drug War, in short, represents a childish and ahistorical way of thinking about the world, and until the world recognizes that fact, we'll have more victims like Andy Gibb and Leah Betts, victims of the Drug War's crack down on honest talk about psychoactive substances, victims whose deaths will be cynically parlayed into Drug War propaganda by the government, thus leading to further crackdowns on godsend plant medicines that could have performed wonders for millions (indeed, billions) when used wisely.

Even if we assume that the Drug Warrior has good intentions, the effects of their policies are pure evil: they outlaw substances in a misguided effort to respond to one single death, thereby condemning millions and billions around the world to lives of unnecessary suffering, suffering brought about by the prohibition of the thousands of psychoactive godsends that nature has grown at our very feet.

Thus Drug Warriors stride the world like so many purblind do-gooders, outlawing mother nature's plants as they go, oblivious to the wide swath of pain and suffering that they are leaving in their wake (in nursing homes, in psychiatric clinics...), interested only in scoring points for Drug War propaganda, according to which Mother Nature is a drug kingpin rather than a healing goddess.


Maurice Gibb responded to Andy's death by vowing to remain "clean" for the rest of his life. This sort of response to a substance-related death could only happen in the time of a Drug War. In any other era, the response would be seen for the non-sequitur that it is. It's as if Andy had died by ingesting too much salt and Maurice had responded by forswearing condiments. Neither the cocaine nor the salt is to blame here, but rather the ill-advised use of the same. And that ill-advised use was encouraged by a Drug War that criminalizes mere research on illegal substances, thus making their advised use almost impossible.


I feel a kind of kinship with Andy, since he and I were born in the same year, and he and I were both experiencing depression in the same years of our adult lives. I use the word "depression" advisedly here (and not merely as an armchair philosopher pompously pronouncing on the mental health of a stranger) for I have seen footage of Andy in a few unguarded moments of his life in the last half of the '80s, and it's actually painful to watch, so clearly do I see (and sort of retroactively empathize with) his utter weariness and disappointment with life.

The Drug Warrior's Pyrrhic solution for Andy would no doubt have had the singer go cold turkey on cocaine and put him on mind-numbing Big Pharma meds for the rest of his life. (Knowing this, it's no wonder that Andy never thought of taking that alternative!)

But the obvious solution is one that Americans have been taught never to even consider (mother nature's plants are evil, after all): Don't demonize cocaine, but rather legalize ALL plant medicines -- only imagine! -- and then let a pharmacologically savvy empath (what the old world would have called a "shaman") use any and all plant medicines they can find to help Andy "find himself." Finding oneself was always the goal of psychiatry, after all, but if one wants to read about real success in achieving this goal, one has to turn to the accounts of reverent psychedelic use across the ages, including the works of modern pharmacological empaths such as James Fadiman and Stanislav Grof and the many psychiatrists who successfully combated their client's alcoholism with LSD in the 1950s and early '60s (and the ongoing use of ibogaine to beat addictions of many kinds in Africa).

Or one can look back further, to the psychedelic-fueled Eleusinian Mysteries, which many western luminaries (including Plato, Cicero, and Plutarch) declared to be the most important experiences of their entire lives.

Then again, Andy may have needed no intervention at all, had the entire psychoactive pharmacy of mother nature been available to him -- ALONG WITH THE OBJECTIVE INFORMATION NEEDED TO USE IT WISELY!

For you can be sure that in a free country, where plants were actually legal and science was actually free, everyone would have known that you have to watch your pea-picking blood pressure when you use cocaine!

If I sound "flip" here, it's only to express my heartfelt disdain for the know-nothing Drug Warrior mentality that guarantees "drug-related" deaths, first by suppressing research about plant medicines, and second by criminalizing the many plant medicine godsends that could be used to break a human being out of a bad relationship that they've developed with yet another plant medicine -- not by addicting them to another substance but by helping them adopt a more resilient and flexible way of viewing their whole world in general through the guided use of time-honored psychedelic medicine.

When Malcolm X successfully combatted addiction among his followers, he did not use a medical approach of any kind. Instead he gave his followers a REASON to renounce their addictions, namely in order to fight oppression. And that is what psychedelics can provide an addict: a REASON to change their behavior as needed in order to achieve self-fulfillment in life. For the guided use of entheogens can provide the lost with a new, clarified set of priorities, whereby they are motivated to use plant medicines only as a means to achieving a positive and life-affirming end, not as some hedonistic and dangerous end in and of itself, which is what plant medicines can become when the substance users lose track of their own purpose in life, i.e. of their whole reason for being on Planet Earth in the first place.

The medical establishment sees an addict and says: you need medical help! Wrong. They need a meaningful incentive for living life differently, and that's not going to come from Big Pharma drugs that suppress emotions and cause a lifelong addiction, albeit one for which the required drugs are eternally forthcoming -- but at a price, both morally and economically speaking: the moral price being the fact that the medical establishment has turned you into an eternal patient, with all the disempowering emotional baggage that such a classification entails.

At the risk of digressing, I feel compelled to point out that the pharmacologically savvy shamanism that I am promoting here will require the reform of tort law in America, at least as it applies to psychiatry. For under the current legal system, it will take only one single instance of a failed shamanic approach for "shamans" everywhere to renounce mother nature's plant medicines in favor of Big Pharma pills. Why? Because when a Big Pharma pill causes unwanted side effects over which a patient decides to sue, the liability can be borne by the pill maker, whereas the psychiatrist will be held personally responsible if a patient decides to litigate over the supposed negative effects of a medicinal cure that derives solely from mother nature.

Without tort reform, then, it will take just one single lawsuit against a shaman to make pharmacologically savvy shamanism unavailable to virtually everybody in the world, as shamans pull down their placards hanging above their doorway, fearful of losing their life savings and reputation to one single solitary disgruntled patient. To say that this is unscientific, is to put it mildly. But then for both lawyers and Drug Warriors, a swallow DOES make a summer.

Should a Drug Warrior find but one single solitary individual having issues with cocaine, for instance, they take it as a knock-down argument why that drug needs to remain illegal. What absolute nonsense. This is magical thinking, saying that when we talk about this thing called "drugs," all statistical rules fly out of the window and a .0001% occurrence of negative side effects suddenly constitutes a reason to eradicate a plant medicine from the face of the earth. Drug warriors only get away with this nonsense because they have convinced the world that cocaine has no positive uses. How? By censoring all positive mentions of cocaine from history, from books, from movies, and from TV -- and associating that drug merely with scumbags in a dimly lit back office loudly snorting "dope" on a card table beside piles of blood-stained money.

Cocaine, of course, is not the only way to benefit from the coca leaf. HG Wells and Jules Verne praised coca wine for its ability to help them focus and write imaginative stories. But Drug Warriors always want to highlight the worst possible use of a demonized substance. That's why they love stories of crack cocaine use. What they do not tell you is that even crack cocaine will not addict you if you use it wisely -- which is to say on isolated occasions. But no worries. Once this fact is finally known, Drug Warriors will find a still more potent form of coca to scare us with -- because their goal is to tarnish the plant medicine coca by associating it with the absolute most dangerous way that it could possibly be used.

Again, what rubbish. The Drug Warrior does not want us to use coca wisely -- he or she wants to scare us to death about the whole idea of "coca" in general, so that we'll all just stop asking rational questions and "just say no" instead, like good mentally pacified Americans.

This is all just propaganda and Christian Science prejudice against mother nature's plant medicines. We need not even try to disabuse Drug Warriors of these lamebrained notions, however, since it was a violation of natural law to outlaw plant medicines in the first place. No matter how idiotic the lawyers and Drug Warriors are when it comes to the subject of statistical significance, that is ultimately beside the point. The fact remains that drug law is a common-law power grab in violation of the natural law upon which Jefferson founded this country. Just ask the ghost of Jefferson himself, which was rolling in its grave when the DEA stomped onto Monticello in jackboots in 1987 and confiscated that Founding Father's poppy plants.

The Links Police

You wonder why I stopped you? Well, I just wanted to give you a heads up about an essay that will tell you more about celebrity "drug" use, namely: The Philosophy of Drug Use. That, and your left tail light is out.

Author's Follow-up: May 4, 2023

It's odd to have a Drug War in a nation founded by Christians. The Catholic doctrine, as George Orwell has pointed out, has long held that "things" are neither good nor bad, but that such labels apply only to human beings and their actions. Yet the ostensibly Christian Drug Warrior tells us that God's creation is often poisonous -- so much so that is has no positive uses for anybody, anywhere, ever. God himself felt otherwise, as we learn in the Book of Genesis. This is not only theological heresy on the part of Drug Warriors, but it is a blatantly anti-scientific viewpoint as well. For any scientist knows by reasoning what the Christian SHOULD KNOW by religious doctrine: namely, that there are no bad substances in the world: that substances are good or bad only with respect to how they are used: at what dose, for what person, at what time, for what reason, etc.

Next essay: The Philosophy of Drug Use
Previous essay: How Logic-Challenged Journalists Support the Drug War

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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. 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)

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