Essay date: August 11, 2022

Open Letter to Richard Hammersley

about addiction

ear Professor Hammersley

I hope you don't mind if I share a few thoughts on your excellent paper on entitled "Why the pervasive addiction myth is believed."

1) You conclude the article by rightly pointing out that the very term "drugs" is problematic. That's all too true. I think this is the main reason why discussions on this topic give off more heat than light, because the term "drugs" is an assumption-laden term and as such has no place in a rational discourse. The term has passed its expiration date and should be replaced with a judgment-free term like "psychoactive substances." (I like to use the term "godsend substances" for it points out that there is another way of looking at mother nature's pharmacy than through the jaundiced eyes of the Drug Warrior.) For "drugs" is not only a hypocritical term (in that it does not refer to tobacco and alcohol, for instance), but it is an anti-scientific one, for the term "drugs": means the following: "substances for which there are no positive uses, whatsoever, for anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances." But the fact is that there are no substances of this kind in the world. Even the deadly Botox can be used rationally in the right doses for the right person in the right circumstance. And so merely to use the term "drugs" is to tacitly sign off on Drug Warrior lies and, indeed, a whole anti-scientific way of looking at the world. For the term "drugs" as used today is like the term "scab": it not only connotes a thing but it passes judgment on that thing in so doing. For this reason, I think that the term "drugs" should be deconstructed at the beginning of all articles about addiction, at least when they are addressed to the heavily indoctrinated layperson in western society.

2) Speaking of which, we may just as well refer to "drugs" as godsend medicines. They are not a scourge. Nothing that nature grows is a scourge. If substances are misused, surely it is an education problem, not a drug problem.

3) You come close to saying that an ideal world would be one without drugs, but this is a Christian Science preference, not a logical truth. If one were to grow up in a hypothetical rain forest surrounded by psychoactive medicines, I do not think it would ever occur to one that they had a moral duty to renounce the use of the substances that surround them. Rather, you would consider it your duty to learn how to use them safely for good purposes. I wish that the Uvalde shooter Salvador Ramos HAD actually used drugs -- namely ecstasy -- for he would then have been far less likely to have found the stomach to kill grade schoolers.

4) As always, it's depressing to read articles like yours because even the good news it reports is usually bad. For instance, the 2000 Runciman report sounds positive because it suggests punishing cannabis-related offenses less harshly than those involving buprenorphine -- however, the report authors apparently still assumed that the only way to deal with "use" is to punish it -- not to educate users as to how to avoid addiction, say, or how to find better drugs to achieve the transcendence that the users were seeking.

5) Speaking of transcendence: Human beings have sought self-transcendence since caveman days. Much of the use that we decry today as hedonism can be equally well understood as a search for self-transcendence, an escape from the psychological limits that have been placed upon one by nature and nurture. Even if we feel that hedonism should be outlawed (a problematic view in itself) it sounds tyrannical to deny human beings the right to self-transcendence, especially considering that the kinds of substances we demonize today have inspired entire religions, as coca was an Incan god, mushrooms inspired religious cults in South America, and the Vedic religion was inspired by the psychoactive effects of soma. Is not then the Drug War an attack on religion -- nay, an attack on the religious impulse itself?

6 I would argue that "addiction" is a political term. Consider America before 1914. Perhaps as many as 10% of the population were opium habitues (compared to the 1 in 4 American women who are chemically dependent on Big Pharma drugs for a lifetime as a direct result of the Drug War giving psychiatry a monopoly on mood medicine). These pre-1914 opium users were habitues, not addicts. Opium-loving Benjamin Franklin was certainly not considered an addict. Then the Harrison Narcotics act was passed and, hey presto, America was suddenly full of addicts. Gee, how did THAT happen?

7 This leads naturally to item 7, the fact that the Drug War causes all of the problems that it purports to solve. In 1915, America suddenly had an "addiction" problem, perhaps, but it was "addiction by fiat," since the government had effectively made Americans addicts -- by forcing them to go cold turkey and/or to seek illicit supplies of their drug of choice. (We would have a new addiction problem today if we outlawed coffee -- or alcohol, or tobacco, or antidepressants.)

8 Ecstasy is one of the safest drugs on the planet. Yet while liquor kills 95,000 a year in America, beer-swilling politicians eagerly seek out anecdotal stories of a handful of deaths caused by ecstasy -- like the death of British raver Leah Betts, which was clearly caused by a lack of safe-use info which was a product of the UK's focus on punishment over education. The UK's crackdown on Ecstasy turned the once-peaceful dance floor into the Wild West, where concert organizers suddenly had to hire special forces troops to keep the peace.

9. The term "drugs" is a scapegoat for all social problems, giving politicians the free pass they need to avoid spending money on real education of the young and fixing up inner cities. Politicians are not skinflints, mind: they just want to spend their money on prisons and policing, not on educating folks and therefore possibly giving them ideas of their own about what constitutes the good life. The people's "good life" may not involve consumerism, after all.

10. The Drug War steals elections for conservative politicians. There is no way that Trump would have been elected had not the Drug War removed hundreds of thousands of black felons from the voting rolls. Millions of others were effectively removed since many US prisons do not allow inmates to vote.

11. In a world with mass shootings, in which we're living under a nuclear sword of Damocles, someone should be arguing that we NEED drugs like Ecstasy, to remedy the fatal flaw of Homo sapiens, namely their ability to demonize and hate "the other," a term which nowadays includes "drug dealers," whom we feel free to address with terms that were once reserved for the Jews in Nazi Germany: "scumbags" and "filth."

12. Speaking of which, rather than worrying about drugs, we should be worrying about the Drug War movies in which vigilante justice is glorified, as in "Running from the Devil," in which the cigarette-smoking DEA agent hangs one "drug suspect" from a meat hook and shoots another in cold blood at pointblank range. Trump's election is small surprise when one considers the popularity of such films. The problem is, Americans think they can have democracy and the Drug War too, but that's not going to happen. Indeed, if Trump wins another turn, he's going to start executing the disfranchised blacks that previous Drug Warriors had been content merely to marginalize.

These notes aren't all about addiction, of course, but this is all interrelated.

Hope my thoughts on this subject were of interest to you, and thanks for your time!

The Links Police

Do you know why I stopped you? That's right, because the Drug War gives me carte blanche to be a noxious busybody. Oh, and I also wanted to give you a heads up about addiction. Yeah, it seems this Brian fellow has written other essays on this subject, namely:

Addicted to Addiction
Addicted to Ignorance
Open Letter to Addiction Specialist Gabriel Maté
How the Drug War Killed Amy Winehouse
The Myth of the Addictive Personality

Fair enough? Oh, and your left tail light is out.

Next essay: How the Drug War Turns Kids' Lives into a Living Hell
Previous essay: Richard Feynman and the Drug War

More Essays Here

essays about

Open Letter to Addiction Specialist Gabriel Maté
Open Letter to Anthony Gottlieb
Open Letter to Congressman Ben Cline, asking him to abolish the criminal DEA
Open Letter to Diane O'Leary
Open Letter to Erowid
Open Letter to Francis Fukuyama
Open Letter to Gabrielle Glaser
Open letter to Kenneth Sewell
Open Letter to Lisa Ling
Open Letter to Nathan at
Open letter to Professor Troy Glover at Waterloo University
Open Letter to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Open Letter to the Virginia Legislature
Open Letter to Variety Critic Owen Glieberman
Open letter to Wolfgang Smith
Open Letter to Vincent Rado
Open Letter to Rick Doblin and Roland Griffiths
Critique of the Philosophy of Happiness
Heroin versus Alcohol
End the Drug War Now
How the Drug War Screws the Depressed
How the Monticello Foundation betrayed Jefferson's Legacy in 1987
How to Unite Drug War Opponents of all Ethnicities
Ignorance is the enemy, not Fentanyl
Majoring in Drug War Philosophy
MDMA for Psychotherapy
Predictive Policing in the Age of the Drug War
Speaking Truth to Big Pharma
Teenagers and Cannabis
Teenagers and Cannabis
Psychedelics and Depression
The Drug War and Armageddon
The Invisible Mass Shootings
The problem with Modern Drug Reform Efforts
The Menace of the Drug War
The Mother of all Western Biases
Top 10 Problems with the Drug War
Why CBS 19 should stop supporting the Drug War
Why DARE should stop telling kids to say no
Why the Drug War is Worse than you can Imagine
Why the Holocaust Museum must denounce the Drug War
The Drug War Cure for Covid
Another Cry in the Wilderness
Open Letter to Vincent Hurley, Lecturer
Canadian Drug Warrior, I said Get Away
Open Letter to Margo Margaritoff
Open Letter to Roy Benaroch MD
How Bernardo Kastrup reckons without the drug war
The Pseudoscience of Mental Health Treatment

...end the war on drugs. Shop today. And tomorrow.

Monticello Betrayed Thomas Jefferson

In 1987, the Monticello Foundation invited the DEA onto the property to confiscate Thomas Jeffersons poppy plants, in violation of the Natural Law upon which the gardening fan had founded America

The Drug War Censors Science - Bumper Sticker

Drive the point home that the Drug War censors scientists -- by outlawing and otherwise discouraging research into the kinds of drugs that have inspired entire religions.

Protest The Dea Bumper Sticker

Millions have needlessly suffered over the last 50 years because the DEA has lied about psychedelics, claiming that they are addictive and have no therapeutic value. Stop the lies, start the research.

Reincarnation is for Has-Beens

In a former life, I bought this bumper sticker myself. My friends got quite a kick out of it, as I recall!
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).

Nature Abhors a Vacuum - drink tile

Actually, Nature likes several of the latest Dyson models, but those are really the exception to the rule.

I Brake for Honeybees

Do your part to fight Colony Collapse Disorder: Show the honey bees your true feelings with this unBEElievable bumper sticker

Thinking of You

Face it, even your friends sometimes tick you off: Show them your true feelings with this novelty gift card -- and don't worry, the inside text reads: PSYCH! Just kidding.

What Would Socrates Do - bumper sticker

What would Socrates do if he drove a BMW? He'd sell it at once to show he wasn't tempted by luxury -- but he'd keep the kewl bumper sticker designed by that came with it.


old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

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. 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.

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.

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

  • Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
  • Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company
  • 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
  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
    • Blum, Richard "Society and Drugs" 1970 Jossey-Bass
  • 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
    • Carroll, Lewis "Alice in Wonderland: The Original 1865 Edition With Complete Illustrations By Sir John Tenniel" 2021 Amazon
  • Chesterton, GK "Saint Thomas Acquinas"2014 BookBaby
    • Cohen, Jay S. "For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health" 2011 Tarcher/Putnam
    • De Quincey, Thomas "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" 1995 Dover
    • Ellsberg, Daniel "The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner " 2018 Bloomsbury Publishing
    • Fadiman, James "The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys " 2011 Park Street Press
  • Filan, Kenaz "The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally"2011 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
    • Fleming, Thomas "A Disease in the Public Mind: Why We Fought the Civil War" 2014 Da Capo Press
    • Friedman, Milton "Wall Street Journal" 1989 WSJ
    • Fukuyama, Francis "Liberalism and Its Discontents" 2022 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
    • Gootenberg, Paul "Cocaine: Global Histories" 1999 Routledge
    • Gottleib, Anthony "The Dream of Enlightenment: the Rise of Modern Philosophy" 2016 Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
    • Holland, Julie "Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics" 2020 HarperWave
    • Huxley, Aldous "The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell" 1970 Penguin Books
  • 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
    • Jenkins, Philip "Synthetic Panics: The Symbolic Politics of Designer Drugs" 1999 New York University Press
    • Johnson, Paul "The Birth of the Modern" 1991 Harper Collins
    • Leary, Timothy Ralph Metzner "The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead " 1964 University Books
    • Lovecraft, HP "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" 1970 Del Rey Books
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
    • Mate, Gabriel "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction" 2009 Vintage Canada
    • Maupassant, Guy de "Le Horla et autres contes fantastiques - Guy de Maupassant: Les classiques du fantastique " 2019
    • McKenna, Terence "Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution " 1992 Bantam
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
    • Miller, Richard Louis "Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca Kindle " 2017 Park Street Press
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
    • Noe, Alvin "Out of our Heads" 2010 HiII&Wang,
    • Paley, Dawn "Drug War Capitalism" 2014 AK Press
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
    • Pinchbeck, Daniel "When Plants Dream" 2019 Watkins Publishing
    • Poe, Edgar Allan "The Essential Poe" 2020 Warbler Classics
    • Pollan, Michael "How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence " 2018 Penguin Books
    • Reynolds, David S. "Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville " 1988 Oxford University Press
    • Richards, William "Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences Hardcover" 2015 Columbia University Press
    • Rosenfeld, Harvey "Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898 " 2000 Praeger
  • Rudgley, Richard "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances"2014 Macmillan Publishers
    • Russell, Kirk "Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered" 1967 Arlington House
    • Schlosser, Erich "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety" 2014 Penguin
    • Sewell, Kenneth Clint Richmond "Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S. " 2006 Pocket Star
    • Shirer, William "The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler" 2011 RosettaBooks
  • 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
    • Slater, Lauren "Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds" 2019 Boston
  • 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
    • Straussman, Rick "DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences " 2001 Park Street Press
    • Streatfield, Dominic "Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography" 2003 Picador USA
    • Swartzwelder, Scott "Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy" 1998 W.W. Norton
    • Szasz, Thomas "Ceremonial Chemistry: the ritual persecution of drugs, addicts, and pushers" 1974 Anchor Press/Doubleday
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
    • Szasz, Thomas "Our Right to Drugs: The case for a free market" 1992 Praeger
    • Tyler, George R. "Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System" 2016 Pegasus Books
    • Watts, Alan "The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness" 1965 Vintage
  • 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 "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America " 2010 Crown
    • Zinn, Howard "A People's History of the United States: 1492 - present" 2009
    • Zuboff , Shoshana "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power" 2019 Public Affairs
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