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Sherlock Holmes versus Gabriel Maté

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

September 23, 2022

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.

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ME: "What are you gonna give me for my depression, doc? MDMA? Laughing gas? Occasional opium smoking? Chewing of the coca leaf?" DOC: "No, I thought we'd fry your brain with shock therapy instead."
Until we get rid of all these obstacles to safe and informed use, it's presumptuous to explain problematic drug use with theories about addiction. Drug warriors are rigging the deck in favor of problematic use. They refuse to even TEACH non-problematic use.
Until we legalize ALL psychoactive drugs, there will be no such thing as an addiction expert. In the meantime, it's insulting to be told by neuroscience that I'm an addictive type. It's pathologizing my just indignation at psychiatry's niggardly pharmacopoeia.
We don't need people to get "clean." We need people to start living a fulfilling life. The two things are different.
Chesterton might as well have been speaking about the word 'addiction' when he wrote the following: "It is useless to have exact figures if they are exact figures about an inexact phrase."
Chesterton wrote that, once you begin outlawing things on grounds of health, you open a Pandora's box. This is because health is not a quality, it's a balance. To decide legality based on 'health' grounds thus opens a Pandora's box of different points of view.
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.
The government causes problems for those who are habituated to certain drugs. Then they claim that these problems are symptoms of an illness. Then folks like Gabriel Mate come forth to find the "hidden pain" in "addicts." It's one big morality play created by drug laws.
Getting off antidepressants can make things worse for only one reason: because we have outlawed all the drugs that could help with the transition. Right now, getting off any drug basically means become a drug-free Christian Scientist. No wonder withdrawal is hard.
To put it another way: in a sane world, we would learn to strategically fight drugs with drugs.
Using the billions now spent on caging users, we could end the whole phenomena of both physical and psychological addiction by using "drugs to fight drugs." But drug warriors do not want to end addiction, they want to keep using it as an excuse to ban drugs.
Jim Hogshire described sleep cures that make physical withdrawal from opium close to pain-free. As for "psychological addiction," there are hundreds of elating drugs that could be used to keep the ex-user's mind from morbidly focusing on a drug whose use has become problematic.
And this is before we even start spending those billions on research that are currently going toward arresting minorities.
When doctors try to treat addiction without using any godsend medicines, they are at best Christian Scientists and at worst quacks. They are like the doctors in Moliere's "M
As Moliere demonstrated in the hilarious finale, anyone can be THAT kind of doctor by mastering a little Latin and walking around pompously in the proper uniform.
Like the pompous white-coated doctor in the movie "Four Good Days" who ignores the entire formulary of mother nature and instead throws the young heroin user on a cot for 3 days of cold turkey and a shot of Naltrexone: price tag $3,000.

The book "Plants of the Gods" is full of plants and fungi that could help addicts and alcoholics, sometimes in the plant's existing form, sometimes in combinations, sometimes via extracting alkaloids, etc. But drug warriors need addiction to sell their prohibition ideology.

We would never have even heard of Freud except for cocaine. How many geniuses is America stifling even as we speak thanks to the war on mind improving medicines?
"Now, now, Sherlock, that coca preparation is not helping you a jot. Why can't you get 'high on sunshine,' like good old Watson here?" To which Sherlock replies: "But my good fellow, then I would no longer BE Sherlock Holmes."

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