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License to Hate

How the drug war brings out the worst in us

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

March 21, 2024

ear Jerel:

Thanks so much for sending me the full version of your highly informative paper entitled "Stigmatize the use, not the user?"1 Having read it in its entirety, the title now makes perfect sense to me.

I find all such papers very difficult to read, however, partly because they are depressing (as when I read about the 46,082 opioid-related deaths that occurred in America in 2018) and partly because my philosophical temperament causes me to wince at the many false but unspoken assumptions behind the hate speech that one hears on this topic. I am thinking particularly of your quote from the probation officer who said:

"I would say that the perception is that people don't deserve to receive Narcan; that they deserve to die."

This quote, in fact, inspired me to post the following Tweet.

Prohibition is all about justifying hate for specific social groups. It has given a veneer of "health concerns" to American prejudices. That's why there was no crack down on elderly white suburban women who were using oxy, only on the impoverished young people who did so.

My own elderly mother was one of those white women who spent a decade on legal oxy. It never occurred to any of us family members that she was a drug "scumbag" for so doing. She wasn't even a "drug abuser" in our eyes, but simply a person with medication issues2. Had she been a minority or an impoverished young person living in the rust belt, the case might have been very different.

I agree with pastor Debra that addiction is not a sign of spiritual weakness or an ethical fault, but neither is it fundamentally a medical problem. Framing the issue that way avoids the real problem and gives prohibition a big mulligan for the problems that it causes. To catch the real forces at work here, we should be framing the drug situation in America as a result of "Prohibition Spectrum Disorder3," a category that comprehends all the negative effects from drug use that are bound to occur in a country that outlaws all mind- and mood-improving drugs while insisting that the public know as little about those drugs as possible.

If oxy is the only drug that is readily available for me to gain transcendence from a tough life, then we should not be surprised if I use oxy. The fact that we do not understand this as Americans brings me to the two big lies of the prohibitionists:

1)That there are no downsides to prohibition.

Prohibition has killed over 100,000 Mexicans in the last two decades4 and turned inner cities into shooting galleries5. It has nullified the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution and outlawed entire religions, based on the Christian Science notion that drugs are bad and therefore cannot be properly used in religious rituals - as if the DEA should be in charge of deciding if a religion is valid. Prohibition has helped authoritarians like Donald Trump win office by effectively removing millions of minorities from the voting rolls. So when the Drug Warrior says that there are no downsides for prohibition, they mean there are no downsides for the prohibitionists. Even this, however, is false, since the Drug War discourages and/or outlaws research on a vast array of drugs, some of which could be of use in fighting autism and Alzheimer's given their ability to grow new neurons in the brain. But this brings us to one of the craziest assumptions behind the Drug War: the idea that a drug which causes problems for white American young people must not be used by anyone, anywhere, for any reason, at any dose, in any circumstance, ever. This is nothing less than a ban on human progress on the pharmacological front.

2) That there are no upsides to drug use.

Meanwhile, the psychedelic renaissance is slowly (glacially, in my book) teaching materialist scientists that "drugs" may have some positive uses after all, a fact that they might have already gleaned from history6. The Hindu religion was inspired by soma7; the psychedelic-fueled Eleusinian mysteries thrived for millennia8, and the Peruvian Inca considered the coca leaf to be semi-divine9.

Finally, it's ironic that Americans consider dependence on opioids to be so demeaning, given that 1 in 4 American women are dependent upon Big Pharma "meds" that they take every single day of their life10. We not only accommodate this use, but ensure a "clean drug supply," meanwhile telling the depressed and bipolar that it is their medical duty to take those drugs11. This in my view is nothing less than the greatest mass pharmacological dystopia of all time, and yet it is not even an issue for Drug Warriors, which is yet another indication that Americans are bewitched, bothered and bewildered when it comes to the subject of "drugs"12.

Thanks again, Jerel, and best of luck in your continued research on this extremely "fraught" subject!

PS In December of 2023, the Atlantic published an op-ed piece declaring that we need to double-down on stigmatizing drug users. This is wrong for so many reasons, one scarcely knows where to begin. In fact, I wrote a whole essay about it called "Stigmatize THIS!"13 and submitted it to the Atlantic as a letter to the editor, but of course, they did not publish it.


1 Ezell et al., Jerel M., Stigmatize the use, not the user? Attitudes on opioid use, drug injection, treatment, and overdose prevention in rural communities, National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2020 (up)
2 Moreover, she had medication issues only because we had outlawed all the transcendence-giving drugs that might have helped her change substances. Oxy was the only effective drug the doctor could legally give her for anxiety, and yet we're surprised when it's prescribed! (up)
3 Quass, Brian, Prohibition Spectrum Disorder, 2023 (up)
4 Paley, Dawn, Drug War Capitalism, AK Press, Chico, California, 2014 (up)
5 Quass, Brian, The Invisible Mass Shootings, 2022 (up)
6 Quass, Brian, How Scientific Materialism Keeps Godsend Medicines from the Depressed, 2022 (up)
7 Marbaniang, Domenic, History of Hinduism: Prevedic and Vedic Age, 2018 (up)
8 Wasson, Gordon, The road to Eleusis: unveiling the secret of the mysteries, (up)
9 Bingham, Hiram, Inca Lands, (up)
10 Holland, Julie, Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics, HarperWave, New York, 2020 (up)
11 Quass, Brian, The Depressing Truth About SSRIs, 2020 (up)
12 The modern blindness to this dystopia stems from two sources: 1) America's naive conception of science as a god, and 2) our belief that human beings are interchangeable widgets, amenable to a one-size fits all cure from reductionist science. (up)
13 Quass, Brian, Stigmatize THIS, 2023 (up)

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Previous essay: The Racist Mindset of Substance Prohibition

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Prohibition Tweets

Democratic societies need to outlaw prohibition for many reasons, the first being the fact that prohibition removes millions of minorities from the voting rolls, thereby handing elections to fascists and insurrectionists.
When folks die in horse-related accidents, we need to be asking: who sold the victim the horse? We've got to crack down on folks who peddle this junk -- and ban books like Black Beauty that glamorize horse use.
Today's Washington Post reports that "opioid pills shipped" DROPPED 45% between 2011 and 2019..... while fatal overdoses ROSE TO RECORD LEVELS! Prohibition is PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE.
The goal of drug-law reform should be to outlaw prohibition. Anything short of that, and our basic rights will always be subject to veto by fearmongers. Outlawing prohibition would restore the Natural Law of Jefferson, which the DEA scorned in 1987 with its raid on Monticello.
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."
Prohibition turned habituation into addiction by creating a wide variety of problems for users, including potential arrest, tainted or absent drug supply, and extreme stigmatization.
If we let "science" decide about drugs, i.e. base freedom on health concerns, then tea can be as easily outlawed as beer. The fact that horses are not illegal shows that prohibition is not about health. It's about the power to outlaw certain "ways of being in the world."
The formula is easy: pick a substance that folks are predisposed to hate anyway, then keep hounding the public with stories about tragedies somehow related to that substance. Show it ruining lives in movies and on TV. Don't lie. Just keep showing all the negatives.
Then folks like Sabet will accuse folks like myself of ignoring the "facts." No, it is Sabet who is ignoring the facts -- facts about dangerous horses and free climbing. He's also ignoring all the downsides of prohibition, whose laws lead to the election of tyrants.
That's the problem with prohibition. It is not ultimately a health question but a question about priorities and sensibilities -- and those topics are open to lively debate and should not be the province of science, especially when natural law itself says mother nature is ours.
I personally hate beets and I could make a health argument against their legality. Beets can kill for those allergic to them. Sure, it's a rare condition, but since when has that stopped a prohibitionist from screaming bloody murder?
I can think of no greater intrusion than to deny one autonomy over how they think and feel in life. It is sort of a meta-intrusion, the mother of all anti-democratic intrusions.
Enforced by the blatantly rights-crushing solicitation of urine from the king's subjects, as if to underscore the fact that your very digestive system is controlled by the state.
Until prohibition ends, rehab is all about enforcing a Christian Science attitude toward psychoactive medicines (with the occasional hypocritical exception of Big Pharma meds).
Philip Jenkins reports that Rophynol had positive uses for treating mental disorders until the media called it the "date rape drug." We thus punished those who were benefitting from the drug, tho' the biggest drug culprit in date rape is alcohol. Oprah spread the fear virally.
This is the "Oprah fallacy," which has led to so much suffering. She told women they were fools if they accepted a drink from a man. That's crazy. If we are terrified by such a statistically improbable event, we should be absolutely horrified by horses and skateboards.
This hysterical reaction to rare negative events actually creates more rare negative events. This is why the DEA publicizes "drug problems," because by making them well known, they make the problems more prevalent and can thereby justify their huge budget.
The Partnership for a Death Free America is launching a campaign to celebrate the 50th year of Richard Nixon's War on Drugs. We need to give credit where credit's due for the mass arrest of minorities, the inner city gun violence and the civil wars that it's generated overseas.
In 1886, coca enthusiast JJ Tschudi referred to prohibitionists as 'kickers.' He wrote: "If we were to listen to these kickers, most of us would die of hunger, for the reason that nearly everything we eat or drink has fallen under their ban."
Drug Warriors never take responsibility for incentivizing poor kids throughout the west to sell drugs. It's not just in NYC and LA, it's in modest-sized towns in France. Find public housing, you find drug dealing. It's the prohibition, damn it!
I don't believe in the materialist paradigm upon which SSRIs were created, according to which humans are interchangeable chemical robots amenable to the same treatment for human sadness. Let me use laughing gas and MDMA and coca and let the materialists use SSRIs.
What prohibitionists forget is that every popular but dangerous activity, from horseback riding to drug use, will have its victims. You cannot save everybody, and when you try to do so by law, you kill far more than you save, meanwhile destroying democracy in the process.
Prohibition is based on two huge lies: 1) that there are no benefits to drug use; and 2) that there are no downsides to prohibition.
The 1932 movie "Scarface" starts with on-screen text calling for a crackdown on armed gangs in America. There is no mention of the fact that a decade's worth of Prohibition had created those gangs in the first place.
The worst form of government is not communism, socialism or even unbridled capitalism. The worst form of government is a Christian Science Theocracy, in which the government controls how much you are allowed to think and feel in life.
The Shipiba have learned to heal human beings physically, psychologically and spiritually with what they call "onanyati," plant allies and guides, such as Bobinsana, which "envelops seekers in a cocoon of love." You know: what the DEA would call "junk."
And where did politicians get the idea that irresponsible white American young people are the only stakeholders when it comes to the question of re-legalizing drugs??? There are hundreds of millions of other stakeholders: philosophers, pain patients, the depressed.
Yes, BUT when they say "drugs plus therapy," they don't mean drugs in general. They mean a small selection of drugs that pass muster with pharmacologically clueless politicians.
I agree that Big Pharma drugs have wrought disaster when used in psychotherapy -- but it is common sense that non-Big Pharma drugs that elate could be used to prevent suicide and obviate the need for ECT.
There are a potentially vast number of non-addictive drugs that could be used strategically in therapy. They elate and "free the tongue" to help talk therapy really work. Even "addictive" drugs can be used non-addictively, prohibitionist propaganda notwithstanding.
We need to start thinking of drug-related deaths like we do about car accidents: They're terrible, and yet they should move us to make driving safer, not to outlaw driving. To think otherwise is to swallow the drug war lie that "drugs" can have no positive uses.
The DEA outlawed MDMA in 1985, thereby depriving soldiers of a godsend treatment for PTSD. Apparently, the DEA staff slept well at night in the early 2000s as American soldiers were having their lives destroyed by IEDs.
Imagine someone starting their book about antibiotics by saying that he's not trying to suggest that we actually use them. We should not have to apologize for being honest about drugs. If prohibitionists think that honesty is wrong, that's their problem.
I, for one, am actually TRYING to recommend drugs like MDMA and psilocybin as substitutes for shock therapy. In fact, I would recommend almost ANY pick-me-up drug as an alternative to knowingly damaging the human brain. That's more than the hateful DEA can say.
A pharmacologically savvy drug dealer would have no problem getting someone off one drug because they would use the common sense practice of fighting drugs with drugs. But materialist doctors would rather that the patient suffer than to use such psychologically obvious methods.
If there's any doubt about this, check out the 2021 article in Forbes in which a materialist doctor professes to doubt whether laughing gas could help the depressed. Materialists are committed to seeing the world from the POV of Spock from Star Trek.
If the depressed patient laughs, that means nothing. Materialists have to see results under a microscopic or they will never sign off on a therapy.
Oregon's drug policy is incoherent and cruel. The rich and healthy spend $4,000 a week on psilocybin. The poor and chemically dependent are thrown in jail, unless they're on SSRIs, in which case they're congratulated for "taking their meds."
Prohibitionists have blood on their hands. People do not naturally die in the tens of thousands from opioid use, notwithstanding the lies of 19th-century missionaries in China. It takes bad drug policy to accomplish that.

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, License to Hate: How the drug war brings out the worst in us, published on March 21, 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)