Essay date: September 23, 2022

Sherlock Holmes versus Gabriel Maté

f you want to see the shortcomings of Gabriel Maté's views on addiction, just consider the case of Sherlock Holmes. According to Gabriel, the addicted individual is seeking to silence "inner pain" and therefore the addict's behavior is pathological. But was Sherlock Holmes seeking to silence "inner pain" when he used cocaine? To the contrary, he was consciously and rationally "seeking escape from the commonplaces of existence." In other words, it was a life choice to use cocaine, not a sign of "inner pain." Holmes liked the clarity of mind that the drug provided and he made a conscious decision not to live a humdrum normal life. We do not consider him an "addict" in the pejorative meaning of that term simply because Holmes had the money and the connections to "take his medication of choice" regularly. He was therefore never "down and out on the street" and subject to the Christian Science moralizing of Drug Warriors.

Nor is it clear why we should demonize Holmes' choice of "poisons" any more than we should demonize the choice of 1 in 4 American housewives to become chemically dependent upon Big Pharma meds for life. In fact, when we judge things purely rationally, Holmes' choice of "poisons" was far more logical than that of said housewives, since the medication he was taking helped him live a fulfilled and interesting life, whereas the anti-depressants on which 25% of American women are dependent are known for creating anhedonia (emotional flat-lining) in long-term users. So Sherlock Holmes seems to be the smart one here when it comes to his substance use. Luckily for us, the Drug Warrior was not around at the time to ensure that his beneficial use of cocaine would end in rack and ruin. And how would the Drug Warrior ensure this direful outcome? By outlawing cocaine and forcing folks like Holmes to join a 12 step group run by the Gabriel Matés of the world, who see drug use through the distorted lens of an unacknowledged Christian Science metaphysic.

Holmes' choice of cocaine was preferable to a Big Pharma addiction for yet another obvious but completely unrecognized reason: that is the fact that Holmes' drug use did not turn him into a lifetime ward of the healthcare state. He was responsible for securing his own supply of his chosen drug, from folks who did not require him to fill out a multiple choice psychological test, whereas the Big Pharma addict must visit a psychiatrist every three months of their life to discuss their innermost feelings with someone who is often half their age. Only then will they be "allowed" to visit the pharmacy and pay an exorbitant price for another three-months' supply of mind-numbing medicine that was falsely claimed to be a scientific "cure" for depression. (That it is not such is clear from the fact that America remains the most depressed and pill-taking country in the world, long after these SSRI "miracle" cures hit the market.)

Of course, Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character, but his case is instructive because he represents dozens of real geniuses of the 19th century who succeeded in life in part BECAUSE they used "drugs," i.e., because they used the coca plant and/or its cocaine alkaloid. Authors like HG Wells, Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas swore by Coca Wine, and not because they were treating inner pain but because they wanted to experience the mental focus and increased endurance that the coca leaf provided. This is a decision that the medical field is not in a position to judge: it is a life choice and should be respected as such. Of course, Freud somewhat ungratefully trashed the cocaine alkaloid after his uninformed overuse of the substance rendered him habituated, but even he was not a victim of inner pain. Instead, he was a victim of his own ignorance with respect to the nature of the substances that he was using. Had he been in possession of the facts, i.e., the truth about actual user outcomes, he would have either consciously opted for habituation like Sherlock Holmes or else renounced the cocaine alkaloid entirely, in favor, perhaps, of the far less addictive coca leaf.

I am picking on Gabriel Maté here, but he is in good company. Almost every popular non-fiction author of our times reckons without the Drug War. They pretend, in fact, that the Drug War does not exist. And so they give us their great systems for treating Alzheimer's and autism and anger and depression, etc., while never pointing out the inconvenient truth that America has outlawed almost every psychoactive drug that could help us obtain our desired outcomes. For these authors have become totally convinced by Drug War propaganda that there really are such things as "drugs," which by definition can have no good uses under any circumstances for anybody whatsoever. The fact is, however, that there are no such substances in the world. Even the deadly Botox has good uses. And until authors and psychiatrists wake up to this once-obvious truth, we'll continue to be blind to the fact that folks like Sherlock Holmes succeeded in life, not IN SPITE of so-called "drugs," but (at least in part) BECAUSE of them.

Related tweet: November 13, 2022

Was Benjamin Franklin suffering from inner pain when he used opium regularly? Were HG Wells and Jules Verne suffering from inner pain when they drank coca wine? Drug warriors use prohibition to ruin lives and then they turn the disaster they caused into a big moral epic.

Next essay: Suicide and the Drug War
Previous essay: Venezuela continues to kowtow to US Drug Policy

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end America's disgraceful drug war: visit to learn more

No Drug War Keychains

The key to ending the Drug War is to spread the word about the fact that it is Anti-American, unscientific and anti-minority (for starters)

Monticello Betrayed Thomas Jefferson

By demonizing plant medicine, the Drug War overthrew the Natural Law upon which Jefferson founded America -- and brazenly confiscated the Founding Father's poppy plants in 1987, in a symbolic coup against Jeffersonian freedoms.

This is your Brain on Godsend Plant Medicine

Stop the Drug War from demonizing godsend plant medicines. Psychoactive plant medicines are godsends, not devil spawn.

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Scientists: It's time to wake up to the fact that you are censored by the drug war. Drive the point home with these bumper stickers.

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.

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)
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