Essay date: June 23, 2020

There are no such things as drugs

the post that got me banned for life from the DRUGS subReddit

There are no evil plant medicines called drugs: the term drugs simply refers to psychoactive plant medicines of which politicians disapprove

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post got me banished for life from the Drugs Sub Reddit. Apparently even those who oppose the Drug War have been snookered into believing in "drugs" as an objective term, when it's really just a political pejorative for substances that politicians have chosen to demonize, often for strategic political reasons. This is unfortunate, because by calling substances "drugs," demagogues like Donald Trump can call for the execution of those who sell them -- whereas if we referred to "drugs" more honestly as "plant medicines from Mother Nature," the callousness of Trump's proposal would be obvious to us all. (I've actually received feedback from this post claiming that "drugs" is "already a neutral term." Well, yes, it should be, but it certainly is not in Drug War USA.)

There are no such things as "drugs," the way that the Drug Warrior defines that term. There are no substances that are bad in and of themselves. There are only morally neutral substances: substances that can be used for good or bad purposes, at good or bad times, in good or bad doses, by good or bad people. That's why the whole crackdown on "drugs" is madness. It's not just that the Drug War is wrong, but that it represents a whole wrong way of looking at the world, where we see evil in a substance by itself without regard for the way that the substance is actually used by any given human being. It's a way of thinking that Thomas Jefferson would not have even understood. If someone were to have told him that some of his garden plants were somehow criminal by nature, he would have considered that person to be a fool. And the idea that you could stomp onto his property in jackboots and confiscate such plants (as the DEA did in 1987) would have struck him as common law tyranny, blatantly at odds with the natural law upon which Jefferson himself had founded the American republic.

The word "drugs" as used today is a linguistic red herring invented by bigots and politicians so that they can crack down on their enemies without appearing to be bigoted when doing so. Under the banner of fighting this custom-made bugaboo of evil "drugs," politicians can throw their opponents in jail for mere possession of plant medicines while claiming to be fighting for public health and safety while they do so. That's nonsense, of course, because most full-time Drug Warriors are vehemently opposed to a so-called nanny state and vote down any efforts on the part of government to enforce public health through laws. Their interest in public health only arises when there are political opponents who require silencing. Then public health suddenly becomes priority number one for them (the government can never spend enough money on it, buying guns and building prisons) since a healthy populace, in the Drug Warrior's mind, is one in which their political enemies are no longer free to walk the streets. The answer: criminalize the plant medicines that are popular among the despised populations that you wish to disempower and (if possible) remove that population from the voting rolls entirely (by charging them with felonies under your new seemingly disinterested law against "drug abuse").

Thus the war on opium originally targeted the Chinese, the war on cocaine originally targeted Blacks, and the war on marijuana originally targeted Hispanics.

Of course, if this superstitious belief in the existence of evil substances known as "drugs" was held only by the right, there would probably be no Drug War. But the left also finds the pejorative "drugs" label useful as well, not because they want to punish drug users but because they want to treat them, chiefly by bringing the whole vast medical establishment into the picture and giving them a cut of the "drugs" pie. But both the left and right are coming from the same place, philosophically speaking: they both assume that there must be something wrong with a person who uses plant medicines of which the government disapproves. The left wants to "help" those people, the right wants to "punish" them. But it never occurred to either side that there was no problem in the first place: or rather that there are many "drug-related" problems, but they are all actually caused either by the Drug War itself, or by a combination of that Drug War and bad social policies.

Why is the drug user's drug supply uncertain both as to quality and quantity?

Because of the Drug War: it works tirelessly to disrupt such merchandise both as to quality and quantity.

Why is the drug user limited to purchasing only a small fraction of the vast psychoactive pharmacopoeia of mother nature's godsends, often including synthesized substances that are far more addictive than what nature has to offer?

Because of the Drug War: its prohibitions create a profit motive that incentivizes the sale of highly addictive substances.

Why does the user lack statistical information about the actual observed results of psychoactive substance use, knowledge whereby he or she could choose wisely?

Because of the Drug War: it produces lying propaganda stating falsely that all drugs fry the brain. Such whole-sale demonization of nature's plant medicines leaves the user with no objective information with which to choose the substance of their choice, thereby increasing the likelihood that they'll choose unwisely.

Why do some folks get addicted?

Because of the Drug War: the profit motive that it creates ensures that dealers will be selling highly addictive synthesized versions of mother nature's psychoactive plant medicines. Meanwhile, many less addictive (and totally non-addictive) plant medicines are unavailable because the research-quashing Drug War ensures that most people will never even hear of them, let alone get a chance to use them to improve their life, spiritually and emotionally.

Why is addiction treatment in America barbaric, consisting of three days of cold turkey on a cot, followed by monthly doses of Naltrexone, all for a price tag of around $3,000?

Because of the Drug War: it outlaws all psychoactive drugs (especially psychedelics) that can be used to change attitudes and thus make withdrawal easier.

Why is the great addiction of our time completely ignored by the Drug Warrior (i.e., the fact that 1 in 8 American men are addicted to antidepressants and 1 in 4 American women)?

Because of the Drug War: In addition to demonizing illegal "drugs," the Drug War also canonizes legal "medicines," so much so that those latter substances can do all the damage in the world yet we're completely blind to it.

Why are there vast empires selling drugs and fomenting violence in countries around the world? Why have America's inner cities been turned into shooting galleries?

Because of the Drug War: prohibition causes violence from the dueling profit-seekers that it empowers. It's a lesson that we should have learned from liquor prohibition but that politicians decided to ignore when they realized how they could turn the Drug War to their political advantage by using it to disempower their enemies.

Why do formerly freedom loving Americans now believe that extrajudicial murder and torture is good public policy, at least when it comes to fighting "drugs"?

Because of the Drug War and the Drug War propaganda films put out by Hollywood, which turn torturers and murderers into American Heroes. Example: the movie "Running with the DEA" from 2019, in which Leslie Bibb plays a DEA agent who tortures one drug suspect and shoots another at point-blank range. Why? Because they had the nerve to sell mother nature's plant medicine, the coca leaf, which had been used responsibly by non-western cultures for millennia. As if to rub our freedom-loving noses in the injustice, Leslie Bibb is hypocritically smoking tobacco while she shoots the movie's plant-selling "bad guy." In fact, she does all but hold up a banner saying: "This has nothing to do with health and safety: this is all about raw power."

But what can we expect when America launches a Drug War based on the false and superstitious notion that there are such things as "bad substances," i.e. "drugs"?

For psychoactive substances are just as morally neutral as any rock or tree. If we are looking for good and evil, we have to start talking about human behavior, and that includes the human-guided social policies that lead to bad outcomes. But this is exactly why the Drug War hangs on like an unwelcome guest: because politicians know that once the whipping boy of "drug abuse" is taken from them, they will have to actually address the vast inequities in American society that lead to misbehavior. They'll have to stop punishing the pre-crime of drug use and start dealing with bad behavior only. Bigots and overzealous do-gooders both prefer to believe in "evil drugs" because it gives them a mission: one to punish and one to rescue. But if they really wanted to help Americans and advance the cause of freedom, they would give up on their superstitious belief in evil substances and stop demonizing this thing they call "drugs."

Of course what politicians really mean when they use the word "drugs" is: "psychoactive plant medicines of which politicians disapprove." But they'll never use that language, because to do so would reveal the hidden Christian Science assumptions of America's Drug War, according to which there's something metaphysically wrong about using plant medicine to alter, adjust and improve cognition. That, however, is a religious point of view, not a scientific one, and should not inform public policy, let alone become the law of the land, as it has ever since the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, when the US government first took the fateful step of criminalizing a mere plant. Since then, the Drug War has stood in stark contravention of at least two of the basic tenets upon which America was founded: the supremacy of natural law over common law and the separation of church and state as called for in our Bill of Rights.

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans

Next essay: 'Good Chemistry' is a good Covid read
Previous essay: Defund the DEA

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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. (For proof of that latter charge, check out how the US and UK have criminalized the substances that William James himself told us to study in order to understand reality.) It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions (like the Vedic), Nazifies the English language (referring to folks who emulate drug-loving Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin as "scumbags") and militarizes police forces nationwide (resulting in gestapo SWAT teams breaking into houses of peaceable Americans and shouting "GO GO GO!").

(Speaking of Nazification, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates thought that drug users should be shot. What a softie! The real hardliners are the William Bennetts of the world who want drug users to be beheaded instead. That will teach them to use time-honored plant medicine of which politicians disapprove! Mary Baker Eddy must be ecstatic in her drug-free heaven, as she looks down and sees this modern inquisition on behalf of the drug-hating principles that she herself maintained. I bet she never dared hope that her religion would become the viciously enforced religion of America, let alone of the entire freakin' world!)

In short, the drug war 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. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.

PPS 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."

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
  • Bernays, Edward "Propaganda"1928 Public Domain
  • 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
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Grof, Stanislav "The transpersonal vision: the healing potential of nonordinary states of consciousness"1998 Sounds True
  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
  • 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
  • Lindstrom, Martin "Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy"2011 Crown Business
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Nagel, Thomas "Mind and Cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false"2012 Oxford University press
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rosenblum, Bruce "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"2006 Oxford University Press
  • 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
  • Whitaker, Robert "Mad in America"2002 Perseus Publishing
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at