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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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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

They still don't seem to get it. The drug war is a whole wrong way of looking at the world. It tells us that substances can be judged "up" or "down," which is anti-scientific and blinds us to endless beneficial uses.
It's disgusting that folks like Paul Stamets need a DEA license to work with mushrooms.
Here's one problem that supporters of the psychiatric pill mill never address: the fact that Big Pharma antidepressants demoralize users by turning them into patients for life.
The drug war is a way for conservatives to keep America's eyes OFF the prize. The right-wing motto is, "Billions for law enforcement, but not one cent for social programs."
Democratic societies need to outlaw prohibition for many reasons, the first being the fact that prohibition removes millions of minorities from the voting rolls, thereby handing elections to fascists and insurrectionists.
William James knew that there were substances that could elate. However, it never occurred to him that we should use such substances to prevent suicide. It seems James was blinded to this possibility by his puritanical assumptions.
As great as it is, "Synthetic Panics" by Philip Jenkins was only tolerated by academia because it did not mention drugs in the title and it contains no explicit opinions about drugs. As a result, many drug law reformers still don't know the book exists.
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?
So much harm could be reduced by shunting people off onto safer alternative drugs -- but they're all outlawed! Reducing harm should ultimately mean ending this prohibition that denies us endless godsends, like the phenethylamines of Alexander Shulgin.
At best, antidepressants make depression bearable. We need not settle for such drugs, especially when they are notorious for causing dependence. There are many drugs that elate and inspire. It is both cruel and criminal to outlaw them.
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You have been reading an article entitled, Sherlock Holmes versus Gabriel Maté published on September 23, 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)