Essay date: September 4, 2022

Ignorance is the problem, not drugs

Toward a new psychiatric paradigm

Drugs are not the problem: it is our anti-scientific and politically charged understanding of drugs which is the problem.

he modern "addiction experts" like Gabriel Mate, refer almost all "addiction" to inner pain, but in doing so, they reckon without the Drug War. To pronounce authoritatively on the cause of addiction in the age of the Drug War is like pronouncing authoritatively on the cause of headaches in an age when aspirin is banned. In each case, the entire problem would be seen in a very different light if prohibition were not in force.

To see this more clearly, let's imagine a world that has never existed before on Planet Earth: one in which pharmacologically savvy empaths are free to use any psychoactive medicine in the world to treat (or rather "work with") clients. I say "clients" advisedly, for in such a world, the very concept of psychiatric patient would be eliminated as folks who are fighting depression access the same empath used by folks who want to increase their appreciation of music, or their appreciation of mother nature, or who just want to brainstorm positive ideas with the empath while using a pharmacological substance designed to encourage sharing and openness.

In such a world, a friendly competition would naturally develop between empaths to see who can treat problems like "addiction" most successfully, not by persuading the client to become sober -- which has been the Christian Science goal of all addiction therapy to date -- but rather by working with the client to get them ON those substances that they can use least problematically while yet being able to maximize their human potential in life.

Not only would the empath have access to all psychoactive medicines, but he or she would be able to leverage the power of human anticipation in bringing about positive results. It's a well known fact that one feels better overall when they have something specific to look forward to. This new form of psychiatry could finally acknowledge this common sense fact and take advantage of it by providing intermittent relaxation sessions, in which groups are provided with substances that give them a vacation from negative introspection and petty fears. Moreover, this therapy could be provided on a non-addictive basis, either by using non-habit-forming substances or by using potentially addictive medicines intermittently, perhaps without even informing the clients of the exact ingredients of the nostrums thus employed (thereby obviating any potential for a group member to seek out a substance for regular use).

Suddenly, we're no longer talking about the problem of drugs (i.e. psychoactive medicines) but rather the PROMISE of drugs. We are no longer vilifying substances but we are vilifying ignorance instead. For the therapeutic wonders that could be accomplished by such a new paradigm would be limited only by the creativity of the empath.

If this approach of freedom and common sense seems reckless to you, I urge you to consider the drug-war status quo: It's a world in which 1 in 4 American women are chemically dependent on Big Pharma meds for life; it's a world in which prohibition incentivizes drug dealers to sell the most dangerous and addictive drugs imaginable; it's a world in which the ideology of substance demonization keeps us from giving kids in hospice the necessary amount of pain medicine; it's a world in which we "take our loved ones off of life support" rather than letting them die peacefully with the help of morphine; it's a world in which our drug policy creates civil wars overseas completely out of whole cloth; it's a world in which 797 blacks were killed in Chicago alone in 2021 thanks to the long recognized fact that prohibition creates armed gangs.

And how does the status quo deal with addiction? As the drug-war movie "Four Good Days" makes clear, we charge the addict $3,000, toss them on a cot without any psychoactive medicine whatsoever -- "drugs" being considered the problem, ya understand - and give them shelter from the rain while the client goes through a week or so of hell.

Next step, we give them some nasty government drug to make it physiologically impossible for them to benefit from substances which have inspired entire religions in the past. And then we force them to go to a 12-step group, where they will be counseled to admit their helplessness before the boogieman called "drugs" and to seek solace in a 'higher power.' Pardon me, but this is beginning to sound a lot like Christian proselytization: teaching someone that they were powerless in themselves ("not of works are ye saved") and that the only hope is a thinly disguised Christian god known as a "higher power." The very idea that a court might REQUIRE me to attend group therapy that advocates the belief in a "higher power" (not to mention a belief in the evil of Mother Nature's plant medicines) is already problematic. It is a kind of religious indoctrination, imposed by the same judges who routinely cage Americans for using plant medicines of which botanically clueless politicians disapprove.

This is not some Orwellian dystopia that I'm describing here: it's the way things are in 2022 America: a world in which you can be removed extra-judicially from the work force if you are found to have used substances of which politicians disapprove -- a cruel and unusual punishment that we do not even inflict on paroled axe murderers.

The Drug Warriors say they want to get America off of drugs, but then why are they forever reminding grandma (or some obnoxious sibling) to "take your meds!"?

No, even Drug Warriors do not really want to get America off drugs: they want to get America ON the RIGHT drugs, as that term is defined by materialist science and Wall Street in the age of substance prohibition.

So, please, wake up, America: crack cocaine is not the problem, fentanyl is not the problem, the poppy plant is not the problem, the coca leaf is not the problem, "magic mushrooms" are not the problem. Drugs are not the problem: it is our anti-scientific and politically charged understanding of drugs which is the problem.

And so I say to the substance-demonizing Drug Warrior, in the words of the clown in Twelfth Night:

"Madman, thou errest: I say, there is no darkness but ignorance; in which thou art more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog!"

Author's Follow-up: October 14, 2022

Modern psychiatry can't afford to recognize the power of anticipation in boosting one's mood, for once they do so, they are forced to acknowledge that opium and coca -- indeed even crack cocaine and methamphetamine -- can be used wisely merely by ensuring that one's use is intermittent. But the Drug Warrior paints such drugs completely black and infantilizes humans by teaching them that no safe use is possible. If a criminalized drug CAN be addictive, it HAS to be addictive, according to the fearmongering logic of the Drug Warrior. This is absolute anti-scientific nonsense, for even the deadly toxin Botox has positive uses. Indeed, there is no substance on earth that cannot be useful in some way, at some dose, for some people, in some circumstances. But the Drug Warrior teaches us to believe that demonized substances are pure evil, which is actually a superstition when one considers that substances are amoral and are so not appropriately labeled "good" and "bad." What's good or bad are people and how they are -- or are not -- educated with respect to psychoactive medicine, and it is Drug War strategy that makes drugs dangerous by teaching us to fear such substances rather than to understand how to use them safely.

In scaring us, the Drug Warrior gladly employs lies, by telling us that medicines like coca fry the brain -- as if Sherlock Holmes' brain was fried by his use of cocaine, or Benjamin Franklin's by opium, or HG Wells' by Coca Wine. Ironically it is the Drug War that REALLY fries brains, first by addicting 1 in 4 American women to mind-numbing big pharma meds. Secondly, it fries brains LITERALLY by forcing the severely depressed to undergo brain-damaging shock therapy, simply because anti-scientific America has outlawed all the psychoactive medicines that could have helped the so-called hopeless patient laugh again.

This latter example shows how fanatical the Drug War ideology is: American's would literally prefer to fry the brains of the depressed than to let them use drugs that would make them happy. We see this also in the fact that some states and some countries have legalized Euthanasia, and yet those same states and countries outlaw godsend medicines that can make people WANT to live. Do you see what this means? It means that doctors do not have the right to make you feel better, but they do have the right to kill you if you become too depressed.

Such Drug War ideology should be listed as a disease in the DSM as a clear sign of mental illness.

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans

Next essay: When you say 'Drugs'
Previous essay: Why the Drug War is Worse than you can Imagine

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(seemingly useful organizations)

Sana Collective
Group committed to making psychedelic therapy available to all regardless of income.

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. (For proof of that latter charge, check out how the US and UK have criminalized the substances that William James himself told us to study in order to understand reality.) It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions (like the Vedic), Nazifies the English language (referring to folks who emulate drug-loving Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin as "scumbags") and militarizes police forces nationwide (resulting in gestapo SWAT teams breaking into houses of peaceable Americans and shouting "GO GO GO!").

(Speaking of Nazification, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates thought that drug users should be shot. What a softie! The real hardliners are the William Bennetts of the world who want drug users to be beheaded instead. That will teach them to use time-honored plant medicine of which politicians disapprove! Mary Baker Eddy must be ecstatic in her drug-free heaven, as she looks down and sees this modern inquisition on behalf of the drug-hating principles that she herself maintained. I bet she never dared hope that her religion would become the viciously enforced religion of America, let alone of the entire freakin' world!)

In short, the drug war 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.

PPS Drugs like opium and psychedelics should come with the following warning: "Outlawing of this product may result in inner-city gunfire, civil wars overseas, and rigged elections in which drug warriors win office by throwing minorities in jail."

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
  • Bernays, Edward "Propaganda"1928 Public Domain
  • 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
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Grof, Stanislav "The transpersonal vision: the healing potential of nonordinary states of consciousness"1998 Sounds True
  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
  • 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
  • Lindstrom, Martin "Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy"2011 Crown Business
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Nagel, Thomas "Mind and Cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false"2012 Oxford University press
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rosenblum, Bruce "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"2006 Oxford University Press
  • 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
  • Whitaker, Robert "Mad in America"2002 Perseus Publishing
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at