Essay date: December 9, 2022

Let's Hear It For Psychoactive Therapy

as opposed to just Psychedelic Therapy

uestion: Why do we never see calls for Psychoactive Therapy for mood disorders, only for Psychedelic Therapy for mood disorders?

Answer: Because 100+ years of prohibition propaganda (of focusing only on the downsides of "drug use") have convinced almost everybody in America, and so in the mental health field as well, that psychoactive medicines that have any addictive propensities whatsoever must and will always be used unadvisedly and cause addiction.

But this belief is just that: a belief, not a fact. To the extent that it is true, it is because drug law makes it so by limiting the choice of the "drug users" to a few addictive substances, sold by criminal organizations who profit (like Big Pharma, in fact) precisely to the extent that their nostrums bring about chemical dependence. Such drug use often ends in tragedy precisely because our laws are created with that goal in mind: the goal of ruining a "user's" life. And so, the Drug Warrior will look triumphantly at someone who dies of drugs and cry: "You see how horrible those evil drugs are?", meanwhile failing to notice that the death was brought about by ignorance combined with prohibition itself. As Andrew Weil points out in "From Chocolate to Morphine," even so-called overdose deaths from the "devil drug" of heroin are actually caused by the lack of pure and predictable supply, which is a result of the Drug War itself, not heroin. Thanks to prohibition, the users may think they are consuming a safe and usual dose when in reality they are receiving a dose of twice or thrice the normal potency.

Speaking of Weil's brave and classic book, one that deals with the facts about drugs, "warts and all," it should be required reading in every school, since it gives kids the facts and urges them to make wise choices as adults with respect to the psychoactive substances that they choose to employ. But the Drug Warrior hates nothing so much as honest education about psychoactive substances. They want us to fear "drugs," not to understand them. Through word, deed, and legislation about "drugs," they teach Americans nothing except to "Be afraid! Be very afraid!" T

Unfortunately, this fearmongering campaign has worked. The man behind the curtain has bellowed his hyperbolic threats about drugs and Americans have cowered accordingly.

That is why Drug War opponents are so often "on the back foot." They have grown up in a society where they have been taught to fear psychoactive substances, a world in which they received a teddy bear in grade school in return for a pledge to renounce their right to mother nature's bounty, a world in which TV and movies only showed "drug use" in a negative light, and a world in which academics never studied "drugs" except with the government-sanctioned goal of showing how harmful they can be, hence the proliferation of academic articles about "misuse" and "abuse" and the almost total absence of academic articles about positive use, potential or historical.

And so today's Drug War opponent, unwittingly influenced by such propaganda, often cuts a very apologetic figure in calling for legalization, saying, in effect, "Yes, some of these substances are horrible indeed, but prohibition is not the answer."

With friends like that in the legalization movement, we scarcely need enemies.

The fact is that drugs like cocaine, opium and even crack could be used on a therapeutic basis and without causing addiction -- even though an entire lifetime of propaganda has told us otherwise.

The ways that such meds could be used positively are so obvious that it's amazing that I have to even point them out -- and yet the Drug War ideology of substance demonization has so thoroughly scapegoated these substances that I have to speak as if to a child in making most Americans understand how psychoactive therapy could work.

First, we have to imagine the replacement of psychiatrists with what I call pharmacologically savvy empaths, western shamans who would be free to use any drug or combination of drugs in the world in conjunction with what is commonly referred to as "talk therapy." The goal of therapy would be the goal of the client, and that term is used advisedly, for such therapy would get rid of the very notion of a mental patient insofar as the shaman's visitors would be seeking not just to cure acknowledged pathologies such as depression but also to achieve a client's more general goals, such as improving their mental focus or their appreciation of nature or music, etc. The goal of the shamans, for their part, would be to identify the drug or drugs that will incline the partakers to be honest during therapy and to undergo experiences that, properly guided, could lead them to feelings and insights necessary for achieving the therapeutic goals that they have specified.

At least some of the psychoactive drugs to be employed in these sessions would be drawn from among those that psychiatrists have hitherto stigmatized with the label of "feel-good drugs." And why do professionals refer to substances as "feel-good drugs"? Partly in order to make a virtue of the necessity of intolerant drug laws (rather than protest the Drug War, claim that the drugs that it outlaws are therapeutically useless) and partly because of the false belief that psychiatry is a true science and therefore can only treat problems in a reductionist way, rather than "merely" making people feel good. But if it's any consolation to Puritans, the good feelings involved here have a therapeutic purpose: namely, to open minds and mouths, in order to let talk therapy at last fulfill its so-far poorly fulfilled promise of actually helping people. For sober talk therapy has always had limited results, for the simple reason that many "patients" self-censor themselves without even knowing it. I myself spent many wasted hours in therapy as a teen saying almost nothing, not because I was stonewalling, but because I really had no conscious insights into my situation and so really felt I had nothing meaningful to say.

One benefit of such therapy would be provided by its very existence: i.e., the therapeutic value of the anticipation generated by one's actually looking forward to a psychoactive session.

The depressed and anxious will necessarily be happier thanks to their anticipation of such therapy. Why? Because they know that the substances that are to be employed in the upcoming session will give them a blessed vacation from their gloomy introspection and nervousness.

The "drugs" themselves could be administered in a ceremonial or religious fashion, if the client so desired, but also in a more prosaic manner, by merely handing the pills, plants, fungi, and/or liquids to the clients. The goal, after all, is to meet the client's needs and desires, not to turn them into flower children -- or into materialists for that matter.. This process would avoid addicting the patient for multiple reasons: first because the names of the drugs thus employed need not be shared with the user except at their request; second because the shaman would so vary the drugs used on any particular visit as to minimize the development of tolerance, thirdly because the drugs will often be employed in mixtures, making the repetition of use almost impossible unless both the shaman and client conclude that such repetition would move the therapeutic process forward, i.e., contribute to more honesty and self-insight.

The clients would also be able to choose drug-free sessions, even to the point of banning coffee and tea from the room if desired. And so the proposed therapy need differ very little from the status quo, especially for clients who share the Christian Science biases of Mary Baker Eddy. On the other hand, the pharmacological assistance may be provided entirely by psychedelics: it's the client's choice.

In other words, I'm not saying that there's a problem with the idea of psychedelic therapy itself. The point of this essay is to say, however, that the true goal in a sane world would be to advance the goal of PSYCHOACTIVE therapy in general rather than to campaign for the legalization of psychedelic therapy alone.

Our failure to do so betrays our acceptance of the Drug Warrior lie that time-honored substances like opium and coca can have no beneficial uses -- at any dose, in any situations, for anyone, anywhere, ever. That's an anti-scientific lie, and no amount of Drug War propaganda should convince us to pretend otherwise.

October 12, 2023

Brian isn't advocating for drugs to be legal in a medical setting only. The proposed therapy would be an option for users in a world wherein the government no longer decided how much you could think and feel in life -- that is, in a world wherein Mother Nature (and the medicines derived therefrom) were legal (once again). Many folks have empaths in their own life that could help in this way, once we wrench the therapeutic practice out of the hands of myopic reduction-prone materialists.

Author's Follow-up: October 12, 2023

If you doubt that the Drug War is out to ruin the lives of users, check out "Drug Warriors and Their Prey" by Richard Lawrence Miller, where the author reports that safe users were the pet peeve of Drug Czar William Bennett. He actually thought that responsible users set a bad example (that's right, a BAD example) and so should have their names published in newspapers and have their employers informed about their safe use. It's hard to say what's more breathtaking here, the intolerance or the stupidity.

Author's Follow-up: November 3, 2023

The idea that doctors should be in charge of treating people with psychoactive substances is crazy. It's like having a doctor teach people to ride horses. There is a lot more to horseback riding than physical safety. In fact, the majority of horseback riding is about thinks of which the doctor as such is blissfully ignorant. It's the same with psychoactive drugs. What does the doctor know of the users desire for self-transcendence and their ambition to think clearly with mind-focusing drugs, etc.? The doctor has zero qualifications in this field. As with horseback riding, he or she can speak to safety issues, but that's it.

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


Entheogens like ayahuasca may be just the right medicine for hypermate- rialistic human-kind on the threshold of a new millennium which will determine whether our species continues to grow and prosper, or destroys itself in a mas- sive biological Holocaust
"When two men who have been in an aggressive mood toward each other take part in the ritual, one is able to say to the other, 'Come, let us drink, for there is something between us.' " re: the Mayan use of the balche drink in Encyc of Psych Plants, by Ratsch & Hofmann
Next essay: The Michael Pollan Fallacy
Previous essay: Blaming Drugs for Nazi Germany

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essays about

There Must Be Some Misunderstanding
Replacing Psychiatry with Pharmacologically Savvy Shamanism
Time to Replace Psychiatrists with Shamans
Alexander Shulgin: American Hero
The Depressing Truth About SSRIs
Ignorance is the problem, not drugs
The Naive Psychology of the Drug War
The Origins of Modern Psychiatry

essays about

Psychoactive Drugs and the Fountain of Youth
Drug Use as Self-Medication
How Ecstasy could end mass shootings
The Good Side of Methamphetamines


(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