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."
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!
5% of proceeds from the sale of the above product will go toward getting Brian a decent haircut for once. Honestly. 9% will go toward shoes. 50% will go toward miscellaneous. 9% of the remainder will go toward relaxation, which could encompass anything from a spin around town to an outdoor barbecue at Brian's brother's house in Stanardsville (both gas and the ice-cream cake that Brian usually supplies).
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. 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. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.
It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it 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.
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.
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)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company