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The word 'drugs' is a political term

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

September 27, 2020

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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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

Richard Evans Schultes seems to have originated the harebrained idea (since used by the US Supreme Court to suppress new religions) that you have no right to use drugs in a religious ritual if you did not grow up in a society that had such practices. What tyrannical idiocy!
Drugs like opium and psychedelics should come with the following warning: "Outlawing of this product may result in inner-city gunfire, civil wars overseas, and rigged elections in which drug warriors win office by throwing minorities in jail."
One merely has to look at any issue of Psychology Today to see articles in which the author reckons without the Drug War, in which they pretend that banned substances do not exist and so fail to incorporate any topic-related insights that might otherwise come from user reports.
Amphetamines are "meds" when they help kids think more clearly but they are "drugs" when they help adults think more clearly. That shows you just how bewildered Americans are when it comes to drugs.
How else will they scare us enough to convince us to give up all our freedoms for the purpose of fighting horrible awful evil DRUGS? DRUGS is the sledgehammer with which they are destroying American democracy.
Well, today's Oregon vote scuttles any ideas I might have entertained about retiring in Oregon.
Alcohol makes me sleepy. But NOT coca wine. The wine gives you an upbeat feeling of controlled energy, without the jitters of coffee and without the fury of steroids. It increases rather than dulls mental focus.
Someday, the First Lady or Man will tell kids to "just say no to prohibition." Kids who refuse will be required to watch hours' worth of films depicting gun violence, banned religions, civil wars, and adults committing suicide for want of medicine that grows at their very feet.
In his book "Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seers," Ross Heaven explains how "salvinorin A" is the strongest hallucinogen in the world and could treat Alzheimer's, AIDS, and various addictions. But America would prefer to demonize and outlaw the drug.
What prohibitionists forget is that every popular but dangerous activity, from horseback riding to drug use, will have its victims. You cannot save everybody, and when you try to do so by law, you kill far more than you save, meanwhile destroying democracy in the process.
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You have been reading an article entitled, The word 'drugs' is a political term published on September 27, 2020 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)