bird icon for twitter

In Defense of Religious Drug Use

an open letter to Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

April 8, 2024

I wrote the following in response to the paper entitled Drug-Induced Mysticism Revisited: Interview with Charles Upton, by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos posted on

Hi, Samuel.

I am interested in eventually reading your interview with Charles Upton. I say eventually, because I dislike reading criticisms of drug use in an age where almost all drug use (and almost all psychoactive plant medicines) are illegal. It gives critics like Upton an upper hand because they have only the evidence of a few gung-ho spiritualists and presumed "hippies" to critique. I say, let's see what drugs can and cannot do for spirituality when we extract the drug experience from those with whom Drug Warriors have always sought to connect it: the disempowered and supposedly irresponsible hippy.

I sense, however, that Upton is going to take the same general line as Wolfgang Smith2, who refers to the use of drugs by hippies as satanic while granting that past saints may have also partaken, to both their own benefit and to that of the human species.

Anyway, I won't take more of your time, but as a depressive 65-year-old who has been denied plant medicines for a lifetime now, I do not want to read about the limitations of plant medicines. It is also interesting to me that Upton and Smith are proponents of Islam and Christianity respectively, so it is not surprising to me that they would cast a jaundiced eye on religious inspiration that bypasses these formalized religions entirely. But I would reassure them that use of drugs like huachuma can inspire love, which can inspire a belief in Christianity, at least, insofar as its premier tenet - for many - is the primacy of love.

I write this today for two reasons: I just saw your post at - and I leave in two hours for Peru, to experience what the huachuma cactus may have to offer me in fighting depression... and maybe even in inspiring my religious sensibilities... who knows?... in the general direction of a board-certified religion!

Best wishes - and I look forward to eventually reading your interview, hopefully in a world in which plant medicines are legal again - as if governments ever had a true right to outlaw the same!

PS I think Smith is unfair to hippies. Sure, many were vague about what they wanted - after all, they were mostly kids -- but let's think about what the mainstream wanted at that time: nuclear weaponry, a Drug War, and the real politik of mutual hatred and distrust. This latter attitude resulted in the near destruction of America by nuclear weapons, not once, but twice in the early '60s alone: first the Air Force dropped a thermonuclear bomb or two on North Carolina by mistake... and then Cuba came "one military vote" away from nuking the Eastern Seaboard. Give me wacky flower children any day over the "tombstone children" of Edward Teller and company.

PPS Also, even the best-case arguments against drug-induced spiritualism will seem suspect in general until such substances are free. Until then, such critiques will read to many as an attempt to normalize the patently unjust status quo, a kind of sour grapes approach: dismissing a priori the power of drugs that we will never be allowed to sample under various circumstances and under various philosophical assumptions.


1 Sotillos, Samuel Bendeck, Drug-Induced Mysticism Revisited: Interview with Charles Upton , (up)
2 Smith, Wolfgang, Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief, (up)

Next essay: Stop Treating Drug Users Like Children
Previous essay: My New Clinical Trial in the Sacred Valley of Peru

More Essays Here

front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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

You have been reading an article entitled, In Defense of Religious Drug Use: an open letter to Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, published on April 8, 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)