Essay date: September 27, 2020

The word 'drugs' is a political term

The word 'drugs' is just a disparaging Christian Science epithet for Mother Nature's plant medicines.<BR><BR>

he word "drugs" in American society is like the word "scab": it does not merely define a category but it "pronounces upon it," morally speaking. By merely using the word "scab," the speaker implicitly asserts that a person becomes pure evil whenever they acquire a job that someone else has temporarily forsworn due to a labor dispute. Note that the labor dispute may have no merit to it whatsoever and that the "scab" in question may have a starving family at home, but no matter: merely by identifying such workplace interlopers as "scabs," we instantly both categorize AND judge them. Even the most conservative speaker yields huge argumentative ground to their ideological opponents merely by using the term. The word is like a conjuring spell for debate purposes: merely to pronounce it scores points for the striker's side of a labor dispute, without any pesky necessity of the striking workers adducing any substantive arguments on behalf of their own position.

The word "drugs" is just such another conjuring spell. Merely by invoking that term, the speaker implicitly proposes the existence of a dichotomy between two types of psychoactive substances in the world: "drugs," which are typically produced by Mother Nature and which are almost always evil, and "meds," which are produced by Big Pharma and which are so far from being evil that we are told by both doctor and society that we owe it to ourselves, medically speaking, to keep taking them every single day of our lives.

This is why those of us who think of Mother Nature as a goddess can make so little headway against the common-law power grab known as the Drug War: we have to use the word "drugs" in order to make our case intelligible to the average American, but by merely using the word, we implicitly acknowledge our own belief in the drugs/meds dualism that the Drug War itself has invented: i.e., mother nature's drugs bad, Big Pharma's meds good. By using the word "drugs" under the shadow of this imagined dualism, we are essentially admitting that the problem, if indeed there is a drug problem, must lie with mother nature's medicines, never with the Big Pharma godsends which it is our duty to take every single day of our lives.

And so every discussion of "drugs" dutifully ignores the millions of Big Pharma addicts (including 1 in 4 American women) who have been turned into eternal patients by the psychiatric pill mill (the most disempowering state of medical affairs imaginable), never mind that there are online chat groups full of horror stories detailing the fruitless struggle of this silenced demographic to tear themselves free of the expensive and demoralizing healthcare system that has them in its expensive and lifelong thrall. Our very definition of the problem silences these voices and forces us to look for our supposititious "drug problems" only in the psychoactive pharmacy of the hated "drug dealer," that terrible citizen who is so evil as to actually sell Mother Nature's plant medicines to his fellow human beings. And so we wring our hands in horror should one single American so much as use the coca plant (a "drug" that has been used responsibly by South American cultures for millennia), but have absolutely nothing to say about the huge addiction crisis that stares at least 10% of us in the face in the bathroom mirror every single morning of our lives.

Why do Drug Warriors use the word "drugs" in this politically loaded fashion? Because the Drug War has nothing to do with substance abuse in general: it's all about demonizing mother nature's psychoactive medicines in contradistinction to those cranked out daily by Big Pharma, with special demonization reserved for those plant medicines whose psychoactive effects could give Big Liquor (and Psychiatry, for that matter) "a run for its money" in a free market place.

If we wish to effectively speak truth to power in this bamboozled age of ours, we must remind the Drug Warriors that there are no such things as "drugs" in the morally tinged way that they use the term: there are simply substances (yes, even those produced by Big Pharma, Big Liquor and Big Tobacco) that are completely amoral, and which become good or bad only with regard to how they are actually used in the real world. This has been the default understanding about "drugs" throughout the ages, right up until 1914, when Francis Burton Harrison first violated natural law in America by banning a plant medicine under the racially motivated Harrison Narcotics Act.

Until we stop treating this fiction called "drugs" as an all-powerful bugaboo and scapegoat for social problems, we Americans will remain the most unscientific nation in the world when it comes to psychoactive substances: a nation that has turned mother nature's medicines into such evil boogiemen that it forces its own scientists to refrain from merely studying hundreds of them on pain of incarceration. Of course, this shutdown on research makes it impossible for Americans to use criminalized substances wisely, but then that's exactly what the Drug Warrior wants: the state of ignorance thus produced results in unnecessary "drug-related deaths" that the Drug Warrior can then cynically parlay into propaganda on behalf of continuing their quixotic war on drugs - i.e., their quixotic war on mother nature's psychoactive plant medicines.

For the word "drugs," it turns out, is just a disparaging Christian Science epithet for Mother Nature's plant medicines.

*I say "if there is a drug problem," since there were no drug problems before 1914, except for those custom-created by immoral western capitalists in 1800s China. If a person was adversely affected by a "drug" prior to 1914, the blame (should anyone have felt it necessary to point out such an obvious fact) was naturally ascribed to the person's lack of proper education with respect to the use of the substance in question, not to the "drug" itself.

Author's Follow-up: August 24, 2022

Since I indited the above adumbrations, I have found leisure to reflect on the definition for the term "drugs," as that term is used today in modern America, namely, DRUGS: psychoactive substances for which there is no justifiable use: not now, not ever, not here, not there, not anywhere.

Of course, any educated reader knows that there are no such substances on planet earth. Even the highly toxic Botox has uses at low doses, not simply for those undergoing plastic surgery but for those who suffer from muscular disorders such as spastic dysphonia. But the real problem with this bogus definition is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if we superstitiously declare a drug to be useless a priori and then forbid scientists to even search for positive uses, then naturally we will discover no positive uses for that drug. But we are only fooling ourselves. Worse yet, we are depriving ourselves and humanity at large of all sorts of positive uses for the drug that a creative mind might have hit upon in a free country where plant research was unimpeded by government fiat.

Absent the Drug War ideology of substance demonization, we could be using neuron-growing drugs like ayahuasca and other entheogens to help those with dementia and autism, as well as the depressed and anxious. Of course, the Drug Warrior will immediately protest that there are few studies that scientifically vouch for the efficacy of such usage, but that is only because Drug Warriors have created laws that prevent such studies from being carried out, partially by denying legal access to such medicines and partially by creating a climate in which would-be benefactors are discouraged from funding studies that go against the anti-scientific Drug War ethos of substance demonization.

October 16, 2022

Dr. Rick Barnett of Vermont recently criticized the strategy of calling psychedelics "game changers." Brian responded as follows:

Rick. I wanted to take polite exception to your Tweet stating that we should not be calling psychedelics 'game changers.' We need MORE boosterism for drugs like MDMA, not less, because they could help end school shootings through anger therapy for hotheads. MDMA brought unprecedented peace to the British dance floor (until Drug Warriors demonized it). Also, I would point out that academic papers en masse are Drug War propaganda, since they only ever concern 'misuse' and 'abuse' and never talk about positive USES. We should speak up to set the record straight, not let academic self-censorship demonize such meds unchallenged.

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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)

Selected Bibliography

  • Bandow, Doug "From Fighting The Drug War To Protecting The Right To Use Drugs"2018
  • Barrett, Damon "Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Polices on Young People"2011 IDEBATE Press
  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Boullosa , Carmen "A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War'"2016 OR Books
  • Brereton, William "The Truth about Opium / Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade"2017 Anna Ruggieri
  • Burns, Eric "1920: The year that made the decade roar"2015 Pegasus Books
  • Carpenter, Ted Galen "The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America"2012 Cato Institute
  • Chesterton, GK "Saint Thomas Acquinas"2014 BookBaby
  • Filan, Kenaz "The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally"2011 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Irwin-Rogers, Keir "Illicit Drug Markets, Consumer Capitalism and the Rise of Social Media: A Toxic Trap for Young People"2019
  • James, William "The Varieties of Religious Experience"1902 Philosophical Library
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rudgley, Richard "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances"2014 Macmillan Publishers
  • Shulgin, Alexander "PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story"1991 Transform Press
  • Shulgin, Alexander "The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact"2021 Transform Press
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief"0
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology"2022
  • St John, Graham "Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT"2021
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
  • Wedel, Janine "Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class"2014 Pegasus Books
  • Weil, Andrew "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs"2004 Open Road Integrated Media
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