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I come not to praise coca

but to bury the idiotic ideology of prohibition

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

January 31, 2024

t this point in my "coca diary," I should probably make a clarification. Despite my upbeat and optimistic "take" on the therapeutic qualities of coca wine, my main point here is NOT that coca itself is a godsend, but rather that it represents merely one of hundreds of godsends that, in the words of Charles Fort, our society has "damned" - that is to say, completely ignored - for ideological reasons1. Other such godsends include laughing gas, MDMA, marijuana, opium, psilocybin, LSD, and the hundreds of phenethylamines synthesized by Alexander Shulgin. Then there is the seemingly endless list of plants and fungi (as, for instance, those documented in "The Plants of the Gods"2) that have a wide range of potential benefits for humankind but which we have "damned" as well as worthless, based on the preposterous anti-scientific lie that they are "drugs" in the bad sense of that word and so can have no valid uses for anybody, anywhere, ever. Even this list of potential godsends expands exponentially when you consider the complementary use of these substances in various combinations and compounds.

So anyone who considers me to be an evangelist for coca wine is missing the point. Coca wine does appear to be a godsend for myself and from what I've read, it was a godsend as well for many 19th-century luminaries, such as HG Wells and Charles Gounod and Pope Leo XIII3. But the world is full of substances that could work miracles for the depressed, and this is the point I am trying to make - one which when fully understood will reveal prohibition as the progress-hating ideology of the ignorant.

What is depression after all? Based on a lifetime of experience, I would define it as follows: "Depression is the inability to get things done thanks to a seemingly innate feeling that there's no point in trying."

While the depressed are often able to set goals, and even get a good start on them... a gloomy outlook eventually kicks in and says, in feelings rather than words:" "What's the point? Why am I even bothering?" And so the depressed person is often right on the VERGE of accomplishing a great goal, but like an engine that runs out of steam at the top of a hill, there is always an inevitable back-sliding, and always at a point frustratingly close to the goal in view. This is why substances like coca wine are godsends: not because they "do all the heavy lifting," as the moralist and the materialist might complain. No. Far from it. These mood enhancers merely "egg on" the depressed in the positive direction that they were already going before a kind of primordial gloom kicked in and told them to "hang it up." Substances like coca shush that negative voice and replace it with a positive one, and this is why they are godsends: not because they create happiness but rather because they make it possible. And how? By silencing the counselor of despair that lives inside the depressed personality.

This is not to say that coca can only benefit the pathological. The sober mind is never at the top of its game when it comes to mental focus and staying power; it therefore makes perfect sense that every 19th-century writer worth his quill was drinking coca wine, especially since the uninquisitive west was not exactly scouring the planet in the 1800s for alternative psychoactive substances with similar mind-enhancing qualities.

But to paraphrase Marc Anthony, "I come not to praise coca but to bury the idiotic ideology of prohibition," thanks to which we have to forego the endless godsends that have been mentioned and/or hinted at above. And why do we have to do without these enormous potential benefits? Because of the anti-scientific and clearly religious belief of prohibitionists that psychoactive substances can have no valid uses for anybody, anywhere, ever.

Author's Follow-up: March 4, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

Let's be honest. By the same rationale stated above, it is clear that a drug like cocaine (as opposed to coca itself) can be a godsend for certain individuals, those for whom that negative voice is particularly ominous and omnipresent. This is common psychological sense. This is why I am always disappointed when I read drug-savvy people dissing cocaine, like Terence McKenna4, Alexander Shulgin5 and Andrew Weil6. I find that attitude extremely presumptuous. It's like these luminaries do not personally perceive the need for a kick-in-the-butt motivator like cocaine, and so they conclude that no one else should need it either, and that one is actually "faking it" when they use such drug.

But this is like saying,

"I do not need extra adrenalin in my life, so adrenalin shots should not be needed by anyone, even to get their heart pumping again. It's not a REAL7 help for them, after all, it is all just artificial."

That attitude not only makes no sense, but it would result in deaths if put into practice in the real world. And such an attitude is just as absurd when it comes to psychoactive drugs.

Besides, when you tell me that cocaine is no good, what exactly are you saying? At what dose is it no good? At every dose and in every possible situation? Really? How do you know that, exactly? Is there really not one imaginable case in which it might actually do more good than evil? Would you not even give the drug to a potential suicide, someone who is so overwhelmed with negative thoughts that they really want to die? Is it really better for a person to kill themselves than to risk using cocaine?

You see what's going on here? Folks like Weil and company are behaving just like Drug Warriors when it comes to drugs like cocaine: they agree with the prohibitionists that psychoactive drugs can be voted "up" or "down" without regard for the reasons or context of use. If cocaine is bad for a 19-year-old hoodlum at UCLA, it must be bad for a severely depressed 49-year-old in Canton, China. This is absurdly anti-scientific and illogical. And it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we vote a substance "down" and then outlaw it, we will never be ABLE to find good uses for the drug-- for the simple reason that it will be henceforth illegal (or at least institutionally discouraged) to look for any such cases. So now good uses will never be found, thus giving the false impression to the hoi polloi that fearmongers are right, that the drug really IS pure evil. For we have decided in advance that science should not be able to find any good uses in a drug like cocaine. It's as if we said: "We feel so strongly about this conclusion, that it should count as a scientific fact simply because we say so." And that is not science at work, it is rather Christian Science, the drug-hating religion of Mary Baker Eddy.

Another word about the presumption of the coke-hating trio mentioned above.

People have a vast range of personalities based on the complicated interplay of nature and nurture. We can imagine a child who is born with all the vocal equipment and genes to become a great opera singer -- that's the nature bit -- however, they happen to be raised in a family in which the parents are very insecure and teach that child timidity and self-doubt -- in a million nonverbal ways. That's the nurture bit.

These kinds of people will need strong medicine if they are to override that negative nurture. Unlike said trio, they did not have the luxury of a supportive -- or at least a neutral -- upbringing, one that would let the child's nature (genetics, predispositions) come to the fore. Once all psychoactive substances are re-legalized, psychedelics may be the drug of choice for them and may help them understand their situation and rise above it. But cocaine is another option that we cannot deny them in rising above their upbringing (so to speak), in transcending those voices of doubt. Cocaine can let them move forward IN SPITE of those silent niggling voices. In a sane world, the stymied opera star would have cocaine as a legal choice. And folks like Andrew Weil and company would not be able to veto such a choice based on their self-righteous and psychologically purblind view that, "Humph! I certainly would never NEED such a drug! Humph!"

Now, the Drug Warrior always spreads the lie that to talk honestly like this is to encourage drug use, but that is the great lie of the Drug War (or at least one of them): the anti-intellectual idea (sadly embraced by the federal government) that it is actually WRONG to talk honestly about drugs.

But Americans are still far from being able to be honest about drugs, for the powers-that-be have yet to even acknowledge the reason why people use psychoactive substances in the first place, namely for self-transcendence -- to be something better than they can be based on their normal "sober" programming." And until we understand the deep and valid psychological reasons for drug use, we can never talk rationally about it -- all we can do is spout Christian Science pieties about drug use being bad. Whereas, in reality, drug use can be just as big a godsend in our PSYCHOLOGICAL lives as it can be in our physical lives, and perhaps bigger.

But it's not just the depressed who suffer from the drug bigotry of cocaine haters. There are people who simply like the kick of cocaine and the experience of being incredibly "in control" as it were under the influence of the drug.

When folks like Alex "sniff" at this and say it's not "real," they are clearly stating a moral belief, not a scientific one. Once we remove all our Drug War prejudices, mere common sense (what used to be Psychology 101) tells us that many people will be very interested in a drug that makes them feel "on top of their game." Indeed, why would they not? Who's going to say, "No, I'd rather NOT be 'on top of my game,' thanks." The question simply is, "Are the risks of this drug worth it?" And that question can only be answered by the potential user, because only he or she knows how much they value the psychological benefits of the drug, so only they can perform a cost-benefit analysis of potential use.

If rock climbing enthusiasts are deciding whether to start "free climbing" (i.e., ascending a rockface without the help of climbing gear), their choice cannot be made by a third person who knows nothing of the climbers' ambitions and desires in life. Only the rock climbers themselves can decide if the heightened risk of free climbing makes sense for them given the kind of life that they want to lead and the goals that they want to accomplish. This is common sense for us when it comes to almost every other popular risky activity imaginable, but common sense flies out the window when "drugs" are involved and we think that basic common sense no longer applies. Indeed, if a free climber dies while climbing, the takeaway message is usually: "Well, at least they died doing something they really wanted to do." Whereas if a drug user dies, we consider it a knockdown argument for the drug to be demonized (for all purposes and all uses) around the globe.

Cocaine haters are basically making a moral claim: they are saying that we SHOULD lead a life a la Aristotle, always looking for the golden mean, and that excess of any kind is bad. This is, in fact, the metaphysic behind the federal government's century-long campaign to demonize cocaine -- and to KEEP IT demonized. It has nothing to do with public health; it's all about forcing Americans to adopt a certain predictable and non-confrontational "way of being in the world," a way in which Americans are psychologically defanged and so more ready to follow than to lead. The federal government wants Americans to live a calm Apollonian lifestyle rather than adopting the ecstatic Dionysian lifestyle championed by Friedrich Nietzsche. The former is the Christian lifestyle as they see it and they want to outlaw any substance that might empower Americans to live otherwise. It's a war against the empowerment of the Dionysian, it's a war against ecstasy and spontaneity and surprises. (For more on the contrast between Apollonian and Dionysian orientations toward life, see "The Birth of Tragedy" by Friedrich Nietzsche.)

I'm of course not saying that prohibitionists are consciously aware of these motivations: but the ferocity and longevity of the Drug War only makes sense when we postulate this unspoken Christian Science AGENDA on their part.


1 Fort, Charles, The Book of the Damned, (up)
2 Schultes, Plants of the Gods:Origins of Hallucinogenic Use, 1979 (up)
3 Mortimer MD, W. Golden, Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas, Ronin Publishing, Berkeley, California, 2017 (up)
4 Quass, Brian, What Terence McKenna Got Wrong About Drugs, 2023 (up)
5 Quass, Brian, Alexander Shulgin: American Hero, 2022 (up)
6 Weil, Andrew, From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs, Open Road Integrated Media, New York, 2004 (up)
7 Quass, Brian, Lord Save us from 'Real' Cures, 2023 (up)

Next essay: Someone you love is suffering unnecessarily because of the war on drugs
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essays about

Corner on Coca!
Drug War Bait and Switch
Smart Uses for Opium and Coca
How Cocaine could have helped me
Open Letter to Vincent Hurley, Lecturer
Coca Wine
Running with the DEA -- er, I mean the Devil
In Defense of Cocaine

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You have been reading an article entitled, I come not to praise coca: but to bury the idiotic ideology of prohibition, published on January 31, 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)