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Open Letter to Richard Hammersley

about addiction

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

August 11, 2022

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

Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

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.
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.
We should hold the DEA criminally responsible for withholding spirit-lifting drugs from the depressed. Responsible for what, you ask? For suicides and lobotomies, for starters.
I'm told that science is completely unbiased today. I guess I'll have to go back and reassess my doubts about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
By reading "Drug Warriors and Their Prey," I begin to understand why I encounter a wall of silence when I write to authors and professors on the subject of "drugs." The mere fact that the drug war inspires such self-censorship should be grounds for its immediate termination.
This is why America is creeping toward authoritarianism -- because of the prohibitionists' ability to get away with everything by blaming "drugs." The fact that Americans still fall for this crap represents a kind of collective pathology.
Over 45% of traumatic brain injuries are caused by horseback riding (ABC News). Tell your representatives to outlaw horseback riding and make it a federal offence to teach a child how to ride! Brought to you by the Partnership for a Death Free America.
Mariani Wine is the real McCoy, with Bolivian coca leaves (tho' not with cocaine, as Wikipedia says). I'll be writing more about my experience with it soon. I was impressed. It's the same drink "on which" HG Wells and Jules Verne wrote their stories.
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.
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.
More Tweets

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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, Open Letter to Richard Hammersley: about addiction, published on August 11, 2022 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)