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I've got a bone to pick with Jim Hogshire

a philosophical review of 'Opium for the Masses'

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

June 5, 2023

im Hogshire is one of the least bamboozled of authors when it comes to the subject of so-called 'drugs.' He recognizes that opium is just a substance and that (spoiler alert) human beings can actually use it wisely for both therapeutic and artistic purposes. (Who knew? Certainly not the Chicken Little Drug Warriors who are forever trying to scare our kids about drugs rather than to educate them.) Moreover he knows that the regular use of opium is no more problematic than the regular use of coffee and that addiction to the former can be avoided by the strategic timing of consumption. And he knows that even habituation can be defeated relatively painlessly and quickly with modern pharma-aided therapies -- that is to say, therapies which were already available over 20 years ago in 1999 when Jim published his book, thanks to which a disillusioned or repentant habitue - what the moralists would call an addict -- could literally sleep through the major symptoms of physical withdrawal. Finally, he knows that any drug -- or indeed any habit -- can cause psychological addiction, but this kind of addiction, being pathological in nature, is, as he correctly notes, beyond the scope of a book about opium.

But I come not to praise Hogshire, but to parse him - or at least to parse those of his viewpoints that fail to pass philosophical muster with yours truly.

Relax, I only have one bone to pick with Hogshire's "Opium for the Masses" (so far, at least):

First (and so far last) bone:

Hogshire keeps describing opium dreams as hallucinations, and I am sure that by some definitions this is true. Yet these experiences can be so detailed and complex that it seems premature to dismiss them as mere "will-of-the-wisps" of the heat-oppressed brain. We may readily admit that the figures within them are not "real" in themselves , but the mere fact that we see such things in such byzantine clarity may well be telling us something about the nature of reality writ large. I realize, for instance, that the neon-green depictions of Mesoamerican royalty that I saw after consuming peyote four years ago were not "real" objects that I could touch and feel - and yet the mere fact that they should appear to me thanks to the consumption of a cactus alkaloid suggested deep potential holistic truths about reality, rendering those dreams far more to me than just materialistic hallucinations that will be someday accounted for by a neurologist.

We know, in fact, that many psychoactive plant and fungi concoctions conduce to exotic "dreams" in those who partake of them. Given this backstory, I think Hogshire is rash in dismissing opium dreams as hallucinations. It's more in keeping with the principle of Occam's Razor that we consider these dreams to be similar in kind to all the dreams inspired by botanical medicine. The alternative is to give unearned credit to random and pointless evolution for unintentionally creating a world full of incredible dreams, all of which can be improbably accessed by Homo sapiens by consuming... wait for it, folks... a plant or fungus! (Who would have guessed? Answer: nobody at all, and least of all a materialist!)

There we go, bone picked!

I do have one more point to add for Hogshire heads, though this is less a criticism than an observation that I trust will flesh out a point that the author has already made in part. I am referring to the notion that withdrawal can be treated pharmacologically. Jim apparently had some specific treatments in mind when he broached this topic, but I would point out that the world will be our oyster when it comes to treating withdrawal -- once we legalize any and all medicines that work! Only imagine: a world in which we can use any substance that works!

The number-one reason why addiction has been such a bugaboo is that we have outlawed all drugs that could make it otherwise. Feeling a little down while coming off of a drug A? Obfuscate that feeling by using drug B & C! But the Drug Warrior has bamboozled us into thinking that the cure for addiction is always a hypocritically defined sobriety. They really believe that this is scientifically true and that it is somehow morally sleazy to use drugs to fight drugs. But that's nonsense. That is a religious belief, not a logical one. If I'm blue and nervous while getting off drug A, give me B & C to cheer me up. That's not a crime. It's common sense. We think otherwise because we have been indoctrinated from birth to fear drugs rather than to understand them and profit from them.

Of course such creative use of psychoactive medicines to fight psychoactive medicines needs to be informed by pharmacological wisdom -- which is yet another reason why we must abolish the Drug War root and branch and denounce it for being in favor of a very dangerous ignorance.

Opium for the Masses: Harvesting Nature's Best Pain Medication, by Jim Hogshire

June 5, 2023 In standing up for the potential ontological significance of the opium dream, Brian is thinking of the thesis advanced by Aldous Huxley in "The Doors of Perception," according to which the world that we normally perceive is but a fraction of the universe -- parsed in such a way as to be of practical use to our limited comprehension here-below.

Related tweet: June 6, 2023

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about opium is that it does not get rid of pain, it externalizes it. It gives the user the conceptual ability of those fabled mystics to envision the pain from outside, as if it were happening to someone else.

Related tweet: June 6, 2023

It's a truly amazing drug, for it gives the user the kind of mental abilities that only a lifetime of meditation can provide, and then only for a handful of devoted aesthetes.

Author's Follow-up: June 6, 2023

I took a shot at materialism above and now I'd like to double down. For it is the materialist reductionist outlook that keeps us from recognizing the therapeutic value of substances like opium. When we're told that such substances have no recognized uses, that statement, if it's to have any truth value at all, has to presuppose the ideology of materialism. To the materialiat, the proof of efficacy has to reside in molecules and chemicals, not in undeniable anecdotes and human history. You say millions have found opium wonderful and it has inspired great poetry? That means nothing to the materialist. It's this myopic lack of common sense that causes otherwise brainy people like Dr. Robert Glatter to ask silly questions, like "Can laughing gas help people with treatment-resistant depression?", in an article of that title in the June 2019 edition of Forbes magazine. Of course laughing gas can hep the depressed, by definition even! The reason Glatter doubts it is because he's a materialist and only accepts reductive explanations of efficacy.

This is why Descartes denied that animals could experience pain, because reductive evidence did not prove it. Sure, dogs will howl when you hurt them, but Descartes tells us that's just noise. Likewise laughing, for materialists like Glatter, is just noise.

The fact is, however, that common sense is not that problematic! Happiness -- drug induced or otherwise -- is happiness. What's more, happiness -- and the anticipation of happiness -- are health-producing.

For this reason, any drug in the world that provides a pleasant feeling can be valuable in treating depression. Any drug in the world. Even opium. Nor is the possibility of dependency a reason to ignore opium, for with opium, dependency might be called a bug, but for modern anti-depressants (upon which 1 in 4 American women are hooked for life), dependency is a feature. This is why doctors keep unabashedly telling such women to "keep taking your meds." We see then the outlawing of opium is based on an aesthetic judgment about what constitutes the good life, not some scientific evidence of what does and does not work for the "user."

Next essay: Why doctors should prescribe opium for depression
Previous essay: Drug War Jeopardy!

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The book "Plants of the Gods" is full of plants and fungi that could help addicts and alcoholics, sometimes in the plant's existing form, sometimes in combinations, sometimes via extracting alkaloids, etc. But drug warriors need addiction to sell their prohibition ideology.

John Halpern wrote a book about opium, subtitled "the ancient flower that poisoned our world." What nonsense! Bad laws and ignorance poison our world, NOT FLOWERS!
Drug warriors do not seem to see any irony in the fact that their outlawing of opium eventually resulted in an "opioid crisis." The message is clear: people want transcendence. If we don't let them find it safely, they will find it dangerously.
"Judging" psychoactive drugs is hard. Dosage counts. Expectations count. Setting counts. In Harvey Rosenfeld's book about the Spanish-American War, a volunteer wrote of his visit to an "opium den": "I took about four puffs and that was enough. All of us were sick for a week."
In the same century, author Richard Middleton wrote how poets would get together to use opium "in a series of magnificent quarterly carouses."
It's an enigma: If I beat my depression by smoking opium nightly, I am a drug scumbag subject to immediate arrest. But if I do NOT "take my meds" every day of my life, I am a bad patient.
In "Rogue Agent," the bad guy forces one of his victims to quit her antidepressants cold turkey. Had she been on any other daily drug, the take-home message would have been "drug dependence bad!" But the message here is "get her back on those important meds!" What hypocrisy.

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You have been reading an article entitled, I've got a bone to pick with Jim Hogshire: a philosophical review of 'Opium for the Masses', published on June 5, 2023 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)