Essay date: November 23, 2019

In Praise of Augustus Bedloe

Rebutting America's superstitious belief that drugs are bad instead of people

n the short story "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" by Edgar Allan Poe, an artistic but moody young man named Augustus Bedloe walks off into the highlands, under the influence of an immoderate dose of morphine. As he begins to lose his way in the dense and foggy forest southwest of Charlottesville, Virginia, he describes the drug's onset as follows:

"In the meantime the morphine had its customary effect- that of enduing all the external world with an intensity of interest. In the quivering of a leaf- in the hue of a blade of grass- in the shape of a trefoil- in the humming of a bee- in the gleaming of a dew-drop- in the breathing of the wind- in the faint odors that came from the forest- there came a whole universe of suggestion- a gay and motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought."

I don't know about you, but that's the kind of wide-awake world that I want to live in - or at very least have access to - and I have no patience with the meddling Drug Warriors who insist by law that I renounce that desire. They seem determined to make me view Mother Nature with the same bleary eyes that they possess. "If God had wanted us to improve our minds," they seem to say, "he would have boxed up the relevant therapeutic plants, stamped them with a bar code and placed them on sale at the local Rite-Aid or CVS Pharmacy. Besides, surely a blade of grass is a blade of grass. If you've seen one, you've seen them all. Now, let's go bowling and have some brewskis."

Such Drug Warriors are like a self-satisfied Mr. Magoo who wants to outlaw glasses in the belief that his own natural vision is as good as it gets for anybody - or as good as it should get, according to Mr. Magoo's own glasses-scorning religion.

I don't say this to extol the virtues of addictive morphine. The rain forest is full of the sort of psychoactive plants that could help me see through Bedloe's wonder-filled eyes, none of which entails addiction if used with a full pharmacological appreciation of their effects. But the attainment of this essential knowledge is actively discouraged by the Drug Warrior, who seeks to outlaw - and if possible burn -- objectionable plants rather than to learn about them (thereby reminding one of the superstitious third-world villagers in the Frankenstein films rather than the educated citizens of a first-world country that prides itself on being scientific).

That said, modern society has no right to denounce Bedloe for his "addiction" (a morally tinged word that Poe never employs in this story), since most modern anti-depressants require lifelong administration, which is just a polite way of saying that they're addictive, too. Take me, for instance. I'll be on Effexor for the rest of my life, not because I want to be but because I have to be - given the 95% recidivism rate for those who attempt to quit that so-called "miracle drug."

{^Poe didn't use drugs to "get high" -- he used drugs to truly appreciate the world around him. Freud didn't use cocaine to get high -- he used it to goad himself on to become prolific. Thomas De Quincey used opium to better enjoy the opera and Benjamin Franklin did so just because he wanted to -- but that was back at a time when people still judged other people for how they actually behaved, as opposed to what substances they happened to have ingested.}{

The only miracle is that the drug can have such a damnable recidivism rate and still be blithely prescribed by psychiatrists to this very day - many of whom will tell me that I have no right to use morphine. To which I can only respond: "Thanks for nothing, Mr. Magoo!" Apparently, I can become addicted, as long as the addiction fogs my mind and conduces to anhedonia. Heaven forbid that my addiction should give me anything that could be remotely construed as a "high."

This is the negative morality of the Drug Warrior, for whom the ideal tombstone epithet would read: "He/she just said no to Mother Nature's bounty!" Such a sheepish legacy may please the Nancy Reagans of the world, but my goal is to achieve the mental clarity of an Augustus Bedloe in my lifetime, not to curry favor with nature-hating fascists who encourage kids to report their parents for using mother nature's plants.

But how does one attain the awe-filled and grateful visions of Augustus Bedloe in drug-war America? Granted, a few of us are born with the ability, being blessed from birth with the supranatural vision of the reformed St. Francis of Assisi, able to literally "see a world in a grain of sand" thanks to our peculiar psychochemical nature (combined with what Poe might call a felicitous upbringing). For most of us, however, we require a little help - not from our friends, as the Beatles song would have it, but from Mother Nature herself, which appears, upon close inspection, to be full of precisely those kinds of plants that can assist us in our quest for mental clarity.

In a sane world, I could emulate Bedloe's nature-friendly disposition by visiting a pharmacologically savvy shaman who can prescribe for me safely based on his or her unfettered access to all of the naturally growing psychoactive plants of the world. Instead, I'm living under the ruthlessly enforced Sharia of Christian Science, subject to a government that has a metaphysical contempt for mother nature's psychoactive plants and their ability to improve the mind.

Thus mother nature remains inaccessible for my purposes, forcing me to rely instead on modern psychiatry's ineffective, addictive and expensive nostrums. Meanwhile, the millions of addicts that are thus created for Big Pharma continue to fall short of self-actualization in a needlessly dreary life, quietly envying the Augustus Bedloes of the world - those who insist on living life to the fullest and therefore "just say no" to the nature-hating morality of the Drug Warrior.

DISCLAIMER: I should explicitly state (or rather re-state) in this censorious age of ours that I am not advocating the use of morphine. Neither was Poe when he wrote this short story. Rather we both are merely pointing out, in our own ways, the inconvenient truth that many of the drugs that we vilify today have a positive side to them, a side which the Drug Warrior strategically ignores, preferring instead to focus exclusively on a substance's potential negative effects in the hands of irresponsible users. They have to argue in this way in order to make their desired crack down seem like a civic duty rather than like the war on consciousness which it actually is.

In this they are abetted by today's movies, which never illustrate the mind-clarifying use of cocaine (from which Sigmund Freud, for one, benefitted so enormously in his professional life), preferring instead to vilify the substance by associating it with grade-A morons (such as Neil Patrick Harris in the movie "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," in which the actor snorts cocaine off of the rear end of a half-naked lap dancer).

The newspapers are just as guilty of supporting this libelous drug-war sensibility about mother nature's plants. One can scour an early 20th-century newspaper archive for hours and never find a positive story about opium's well-known ability to spur creativity, nor a reference to the fact that opium is non-addictive if used intermittently. Instead, we find countless references to foreigners and minorities using the substances while engaged in highly suspicious activities, such as frequenting opium dens, thereby turning opium into the very incarnation of anti-Christian evil rather than treating it as an amoral substance which, just like cocaine, can be used for good or ill.

June 30, 2022

It's weird. Like all Americans, Brian has been told from his birth to just say no to Mother Nature's godsend medicines, so when he wrote this essay three years ago, it actually almost felt to him like he was performing a criminal act. He was like: "Can I really write honestly about morphine??? Is that even LEGAL???" You've got to remember that the answer to this question was all but "no" in the '60s, when it was almost illegal to publish a "drugs song," namely a song that suggested that it might be okay to use the plant medicines that grow at our very feet. That's why, upon rereading this post today, after three years of writing essays against the Drug War, Brian finds the wording to be unnecessarily apologetic, as if the author were desperately trying to reassure his readers that he had not completely lost his mind, for Brian knew all too well back in November 2019 that his take on morphine was at odds with every bit of propaganda that he had ever consumed in Drug War America.

Had he written it today, trust me, he wouldn't be shuffling his Florsheims and looking down apologetically at his tightly grasped hands, knuckles glowing red. Oh, no. He'd be standing straight up, talking about:

What's wrong with properly guided morphine therapy, say, for the purposes of increasing our love for mother nature? Answer: absolutely nothing -- unless we believe the Drug War lie that medicines like morphine can only be used for evil purposes, that they absolutely have to end in addiction. Which, wrong! There are plenty of ways to avoid addiction, by the proper scheduling (on a calendar, I mean) of psychoactive substances. So those who seek the benefits of "drugs" -- like improved mental focus, creative dreaming, ability to appreciate nature, ability to appreciate music -- can be educated about substances (coca, opium, morphine, and psychedelics respectively) and put on a schedule whereby they can use them wisely, for all the worthy purposes cited above and many many more (a list of benefits limited only by the imagination of the pharmacologically savvy empath who might administer such demonized godsends in a free country).

But Americans are so thoroughly brainwashed by Drug War lies that it's impossible for them to even imagine this paradise of mental possibilities.

But wake up, America. Coca use does not have to be addictive. Opium use does not have to be addictive. Even morphine use does not have to be addictive. And psychedelics just plain AREN'T addictive.

We can actually use our brains to use these godsend meds safely for good purposes. It's up to us. Do we want to demonize plant medicine or use it for the benefit of humanity and humankind?

(That said, even if they WERE addictive, why, exactly, is that any worse than being chemically dependent on brain-numbing Big Pharma meds for a lifetime, especially considering that these latter meds are not known to have any of the rejuvenating powers enumerated above?)

Sadly, Americans have been programmed to despise the above-listed medicines, which is odd given the fact that they could never be rightly banned in a country that professes to believe in natural law.

Yet the Drug War has so fried the American mind, that we not only have decided to hate godsend plant medicine, but we now believe it our right and duty to bully every other country in the world to follow suit -- so that when we ban a substance, everyone everywhere bans that substance. In other words, America has created a Drug War-inspired Christian Science theocracy that rules not just in the States, but worldwide, which leads to needless suffering by hundreds of millions who could have lived a fuller life with the help of the botanical medicine which grows all around them.

Why do we ignore these hundreds of millions who, thanks to our imperialist folly, must live diminished lives, emotionally, spiritually and mentally speaking? Because these "mass of men" lead lives of quiet desperation, and quiet desperation never makes it to the evening news (except in the case of a few prominent suicides) -- whereas the statistically rare misuse of substances by white American youth makes headlines, inspiring skinflint demagogues to irrationally blame their politically defined category called "drugs" for all the evils on the planet.

Author's Follow-up: September 25, 2022

Regarding the non-addictive use of the coca plant, it should be noted that the coca leaf and cocaine are two completely different drugs. Cocaine is an alkaloid and not the major active ingredient in the coca leaf. To demonize the coca leaf for containing cocaine is like demonizing peaches for containing prussic acid. It's childish and anti-scientific. The fact is that the Peruvian Indians have used coca leaf for millennia for endurance and an improved outlook on life, in much the same way as Americans swear by their coffee. It is imperialist Christian Science for the US to demand that the world outlaw coca based on the supposed sins of cocaine.

Psst! The Drug Warrior does not want you to know this but even cocaine can be used non-addictively -- and as a practical matter, most people do so use it. Moreover, the way to assure that they do so is to educate them, not to arrest them. And what about the Robin Williams of the world (or the Sigmund Freuds, for that matter) who want to make a habit of cocaine use to achieve the "good life" as they themselves would define that term? Why are we so bothered by such use when we sign off on the mass addiction (or chemical dependence, if you must) of 1 in 4 American women to Big Pharma meds: that's a real-life Stepford Wives in Modern America that is completely invisible to the hypocritical and education-hating Drug Warrior! It's pure hypocrisy, clearly demonstrating that the persecution of drugs like cocaine is essentially carried on for esthetic and religious reasons, not medical ones.

Yes, yes, cocaine can be bad for weak hearts, but believe it or not, such facts could actually be taught! (Weird, huh: teaching folks instead of arresting them for attempting to improve their lives? What a novel idea!) Moreover, before we demonize cocaine for its potential side effects, we should compare its side effects with those of the brand-name drugs in those prime-time TV commercial, in which the chipper narrator warns us in double-time of such gnarly downsides as sexual dysfunction, liver damage, and even death.

Learn the facts about coca leaf -- which, if legalized, would end depression in America, cut drastically down on suicides, end most inner city shootings, and free South America from US bullying -- and stop the civil war in Mexico for which the Drug War is directly responsible.

Potter, Carol. "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas." January 01, 2017.

Author's Follow-up: August 22, 2023

It's funny. Just four years ago, when I wrote this post, I actually felt like I had to apologize for talking honestly about drugs. I had been so bamboozled and indoctrinated, that it felt positively illegal to be speaking common sense and fact on the topic. Now I look back at my 2019 skittishness and blush. But that's what the Drug War does: it makes you feel that it's actually wrong to even discuss this subject unless one is spouting the party line: i.e., "drugs bad." And that's deliberate, of course, on the part of the government. The official government policy is to repress all honesty about drugs: there's no desire to teach safe use. Oh, no, because according to government logic, something as rational and sane as that is only encouraging drug use -- which apparently is prima facie bad. (Who knew? Certainly not Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson) But since when did Christian Science become America's state religion? Since when did we conclude that it's wrong to follow up the research of William James? Since when did we decide that the Vedic religion was immoral for tracing its inspiration to a psychedelic plant?

So much BS about the politically created boogieman called "drugs," so many lies, so much media and academic censorship. Time to speak unapologetically.

"Drugs" is a word like "scabs" -- it doesn't just denote something, but it derides it as well. I find that most Americans are so bamboozled that they use the word whenever they're out of arguments. "Oh, you're in favor of 'drugs' then, are you?" as if merely to associate me with that scapegoat category is to dishonor and repudiate me now and for all time. Well, we've only been around a short time geologically speaking. We're not yet through our superstitious phase, apparently. First it was the lightning and wind gods that threatened us, then it was Satan, and now it's "Drugs." If the boogieman did not exist, racist conservatives would have to invent one.

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

Next essay: Let's burn some plants!
Previous essay: Plants Divine, All Plants Excelling

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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