Essay date: November 20, 2022

The Naive Psychology of the Drug War

how drug war ideology has blinded us to godsend therapies for depression

sychologists like Irving Kirsch and Rick Barnett decry the use of "drugs" as a second-rate fix for mental issues. "Listen to Brahms," advised Irving, and all your troubles will go away. Rick for his part advises exercise and meditation. Any other approaches are cheap, apparently because they are supposed not to involve the necessary effort that our Puritan ancestors have always assumed should lie behind success.

But these psychologists are pharmacologically naive. They seem to be unaware of the epiphanies that psychoactive drugs can facilitate. Their idea of a treatment for depression is something that makes one tolerate life and "get by," albeit with dark moments that one is supposed to stoically survive and ideally to recount to one's fellow sufferers in a 12-step group. These psychologists apparently know nothing of the wide-eyed miracle of life that one sees when a psychedelic drug "hits the spot" and reveals the great potential that lies around one. In my teens, I happened to take one such medicine, and my eyes became so wide open to the many possibilities of life that I actually began to cry, mourning for all the time I had already wasted in my mere 18 years of life on account of being blear-eyed and morose.

The psychologists answer for this kind of depression is to sit folks like myself down and ask them, "Why do you think you feel this way?"

Words, words, words. Such an approach over 20 years could no doubt reveal a lot. But who has that kind of time, especially when one has bills to pay and so has to perform effectively in the world now, not decades later in the course of the grueling and expensive process of talk therapy.

Why then did my therapist from 40 years ago deem that it was wrong for me to chew the coca leaf for inspiration, in order to pry my eyes open for the long run a la that psychedelic vision? Coca (as distinguished from the cocaine alkaloid) is no more harmful than coffee and has been used for millennia by the Peruvian Indians for motivation and energy, much in the way that westerners have used coffee since the 16th century.

The main reason, of course, is that the Drug War had banned coca and countless other naturally occurring psychoactive medicines.

But that is not the only reason. For after this wholesale outlawing of mother nature's bounty, psychologists made a virtue of necessity and began asserting that the mere desire for such medicines on the part of patients indicated that they had an "addictive personality."

What I was really addicted to was the need for self-actualization, and I wanted no part of a therapy that employed unambitious slogans such as "one day at a time" and "this too shall pass."

This was hardly an unprecedented attitude on my part. When the friends of the opium-loving physician Avicenna told him to slow down, he responded: "I prefer a short life with width to a narrow one with length." For real people, self-actualization comes first, safety second. For psychologists, it is the other way around.

There's yet another way that psychologists are naive in the age of the Drug War.

Mere common sense tells us that one's mood can be improved by looking forward to pleasures. This means that ANY drug can be used to help the depressed when scheduled in such a way as to be non-addictive. Folks who demand self-transcendence in life could be given weekly "trips" on psychedelics, and/or coca, and/or opium, etc., and any of the hundreds of psychoactive medicines that we have outlawed under the unscientific and false theory that they have no potential uses. The trips could combine with shamanic-inspired talk therapy with a view toward clearing the user's heads and giving them direction in life.

Such super-obvious therapy has, to my knowledge, never even been considered by anybody ever! Why not? First, because the Drug Warrior has convinced us of the lie that potentially addictive drugs must be used addictively. Second, because materialist reductionism tells us that "real" cures must be quantifiable and show up clearly on a chart. Merely to make a patient "feel better" is not scientific and so doesn't count. That's why Dr. Robert Glatter could write an article in Forbes in 2021 asking "Can Laughing Gas Help People with Treatment-resistant Depression?" Can laughing help the depressed? That's like asking can food help the starving. Of course it could help. The only reason why we doubt it is because materialism ignores anything that it cannot show on a graph. Add to this the fact that the doctor, like the psychologist, values safety over the self-actualization of the patient, and so sets an absurd standard, as who should say, "If laughing gas could be misused by a few hundred," then it must not be used by MILLIONS." Needless to say, if this standard were applied to any psychoactive drug, including modern anti-depressants, they would never be approved.

Dr. Barnett tells us that drugs are a clear "second best" to exercise and meditation, etc. Had I never used that psychedelic mentioned above, I might have thought so too. For that's the problem with the depressed: they can never know exactly how depressed they are, for they never had a different happier feeling wherewith to compare their usual condition. But the psychedelic showed me that there were so many more possibilities in life that I had been blinded to, possibilities that I would never have dreamed of without using the psychedelic. That experience drastically raised my ambitions in life and made me completely unsatisfied with the 12-step group slogans like "This too shall pass." That's why I have no patience with those who try to tell me that drugs are "second best," because without those "drugs," I would not know what true happiness and self-insight is and could be. I would then have set my sights very low in life and "made do" with the addictive and mind-numbing nostrums of Big Pharma, or else with weekly talk therapy wherein the goal was not self-actualization, but rather the slow laborious uncovering of the supposed "real" reason why I was depressed.

That's why I call for "drugs" THEN therapy. But not the kind of drugs that Big Pharma cranks out, on which 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life and which tranquilize rather than inspire. The fact that they tranquilize, by the way, is clear when we consider the question that we ask bothersome people nowadays: "Have you taken your meds?" In other words, these antidepressants are designed to make the user "peaceable" and satisfied with the status quo, not to achieve self-actualization in life, which, after all, could result in unpredictable behavior that might bother the neighbors.

February 2, 2023
I have written above about how materialist pretensions keep us from acknowledging obvious uses for so-called "drugs." But there is another obstacle in our path to recognizing the obvious: namely, Freudian theory, which tells us that "real" cures come from treating hidden problems -- from which it would follow that merely making a person happy is not treating the "real" problem. After 64 years, I want to tell such theorists to go off in a corner and continue counting the incestuous Oedipi on the head of a pin while I chew the coca leaf and, like De Quincey, revel in the opera of a weekend with the help of opium. Stop wasting the time of the living, Freudian: admit the obvious: that safely used drugs make folks feel good, and that those feelings can create a virtuous circle in their lives, helping them succeed and reinforcing that success, if we will only allow them to.

Next essay: There Must Be Some Misunderstanding
Previous essay: Kevin Sabet and What-About-Ism

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The Handicapped NEED Crutches
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There Must Be Some Misunderstanding
Replacing Psychiatry with Pharmacologically Savvy Shamanism
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The Depressing Truth About SSRIs
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Let's Hear It For Psychoactive Therapy
The Origins of Modern Psychiatry

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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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