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Not Using is Always Safer?

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

April 27, 2021

At the risk of getting banned, I would like to respectfully disagree with the final sentence in the r/Drugs Reddit description, which reads: "Not using is always safer."

This is a misleading oversimplification, which only makes sense if we tacitly agree with the hypocritical Drug Warrior definition of the word "drugs," as evil substances that cannot be used for good purposes. But this demonization of amoral substances is an American invention. No one thought this way about "drugs" in the past.

If Ancient Egyptians were told that "not using is always safer," Pharaoh Ramses III would have replied: "Nonsense. When I have a toothache, I'm going to use opium as usual!"

If you had told Freud that not using cocaine was safer, he would have replied: "Safer than what? If I don't use cocaine to help me rise above my depression, I will not achieve self-fulfillment in life. I might then commit suicide. How safe is that, exactly?"

American fighter pilots have been given amphetamines before long missions precisely in order to KEEP them safe by keeping them as alert as possible. Would the pilots have been "safer" in that case if they had "just said no"?

I understand what the author meant when he or she typed "Not using is always safer," and no doubt SOMETHING like that needs to be said on a Reddit named after the politically-confused term called "drugs." I merely suggest that they find a more accurate way to say it. Because it is simply not true that "not using is always safer." That is just one of hundreds of Drug War myths by which Americans have been bamboozled over the last 100+ years of substance demonization.

That statement is not always true in the real world and makes sense only if we adopt the jaundiced religious view of Christian Science with respect to psychoactive substances, for it wasn't our scientists or our philosophers who first told us to say "no" to drugs, it was Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science religion. She believed drugs were not safe, of course, but only because using them imperiled our ability to find salvation the "right" way, namely through the religious figure known as Jesus Christ.

I'd like to add one follow-up:

The Ecstasy-fueled Rave scene was the most peaceful phenomenon in British history, where Blacks, Whites, Indians, etc. came together under one roof to dance. It couldn't have been safer. But Drug Warriors don't care about safety. They judge a person by the contents of their digestive system, not by the way that they actually behave. And so E was demonized and banned. And what was the result? Overnight, the rave scene became the most dangerous phenomenon in British history, full of guns and violence. Why? Because "users" turned to anger-facilitating drugs like alcohol. Rave venues suddenly had to be policed by Special Forces troops. Special Forces troops! So Drug Warriors don't really care about safety, they care about keeping people from obtaining states of mind of which politicians do not approve.

The Drug Warrior will scream that a single solitary dancer had died from E. Yes, but why did Leah Betts die? Because the Drug Warrior had demonized Ecstasy to the point where its scientific study was not even possible and therefore safe guidelines could not be developed to remind such ravers that they needed to keep hydrated while dancing.

The outlawing of cocaine alone has caused more deaths than any other drug law in American history and is even now spreading death, tyranny and destruction in Mexico and the Philippines. No, the Drug War is not about safety. The Drug War is about the American ability to control its people's thoughts, to prop up Big Pharma and Big Liquor, and to interfere in other countries at will, under the pretext of fighting the politically created boogieman called "drugs."

If we really believed that "not using" was always safer, we would all become Christian Scientists and ban alcohol and tobacco and even prosecute the psychiatric profession for addicting 1-in-4 American women to Big Pharma meds. But when we say such things, we aren't being sincere. We simply want to convince people of the patently false idea that substances somehow become unsafe the moment that they are demonized by politicians. That, of course, is just Drug War propaganda.

If Drug Warriors cared about safety, they would prevent future mass shootings by treating hateful people with ecstasy, thereby teaching them how to literally "feel" for their fellow human beings. But such obvious ideas never occur to a Drug War society. And why not? Because Drug Warriors are not interested in actual safety but rather in the ongoing demonization of substances of which politicians do not approve. And so alcohol can kill thousands daily and we don't bat an eyelash. But if "E" brings about mere world peace and only kills those who have not been taught to use it wisely, we declare war on "E" and tell the world that "not using it is always safer." (Guns kill 50,000-plus every year in America.)

Is it safer to do without alcohol? A consideration of Mediterranean diets would tell us no. We can't declare substances unsafe simply because they've been demonized by politicians. Safety cannot be judged in the abstract. It must be considered with regard to the context of actual use. Health is a balance of factors, not a thing in itself.

Author's Follow-up: August 30, 2022

Only fancy. I indited that apparently somewhat insightful broadside a whole year and a half ago now. Wow. "Not too shabby," as my editorial assistant would have it. If I regret any thing about that capricious sally, it's the fact that I may have not put my case forcefully enough. For I would go so far as to say that not only is it GOOD to use "drugs" (hear me now and believe me later...) but it's RIGHT, PROPER AND NECESSARY to use drugs if the world is to survive. Why? Because The only way to teach most human beings to love each other is by counseling them for that purpose while simultaneously dosing them with empathogens, i.e., godsend medicines such as MDMA and psilocybin.

Yes, there are medicines called empathogens (a subset of the useful group of entheogens) that can make us literally feel compassion for "the other," an ability which, let's face it, our species could definitely use some help with cultivating. Until we accept that proffered balm of empathogenic medicine, we will continue to have wars and rumors of wars.

With apologies to Thomas More, though, a utopia can be described in just one simple English half sentence: a world in which unthinking hatred is outlawed and punished by a stint of compassion therapy using the best entheogenic medicines available, such as MDMA and psilocybin.

That's why I call for a new world: one in which substances are legal but unreasoning hatred is a crime. In my world, no one's allowed to work at Burger King (let alone have their finger on a nuclear trigger) if they are filled with hate. Having hateful hearts is a luxury that the world cannot afford in the nuclear age. Outlaw hate and give free but informed access to those who seek transcendence with previously demonized substances.

Okay, this may not turn the world into hearts and roses, but it does have a real chance of ending school shootings and making the use of nuclear weapons truly unthinkable in the hearts of humanity.

Next essay: Why Drug Free Zones are Dangerous and Unconstitutional
Previous essay: Open letter to Professor Troy Glover at Waterloo University

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

America is insane: it makes liquor officially legal and then outlaws all the drugs that could help prevent and cure alcoholism.
I'm told antidepressant withdrawal is fine because it doesn't cause cravings. Why is it better to feel like hell than to have a craving? In any case, cravings are caused by prohibition. A sane world could also end cravings with the help of other drugs.
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.
In Mexico, the same substance can be considered a "drug" or a "med," depending on where you are in the country. It's just another absurd result of the absurd policy of drug prohibition.
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.
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.
I know. I'm on SNRIs. But SSRIs and SNRIs are both made with materialist presumptions in mind: that the best way to change people is with a surgical strike at one-size-fits-all chemistry. That's the opposite of the shamanic holism that I favor.
M. Pollan says "not so fast" when it comes to drug re-legalization. I say FAST? I've gone a whole lifetime w/o access to Mother Nature's plants. How can a botanist approve of that? Answer: By ignoring all legalization stakeholders except for the kids whom we refuse to educate.
The addiction gene should be called the prohibition gene: it renders one vulnerable to prohibition lies and limitations: like the lack of safe supply, the lack of choices, and the lack of information. We should pathologize the prohibitionists, not their victims.
We're living in a sci-fi dystopia called "Fahrenheit 452", in which the police burn thought-expanding plants instead of thought-expanding books.
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