a philosophical review of 'From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know about Mind-Altering Drugs'
espite his admirable honesty about drugs, Andrew Weil, too, has succumbed to some Drug War propaganda himself, at least when it comes to opiates. He tells us that they should never be used for 'recreational' purposes, which to Weil apparently includes the use of the drug by artists to inspire creativity, tho' Andrew never tells us why such use is to be considered as 'recreational,' as opposed to, say, occupational. Is coffee used for 'recreational' purposes in the morning? Is it not rather used for the practical purpose of waking ourselves up?
He has apparently bought into the Drug Warrior lie that some demonized substances can have no good use, for anyone, anywhere, at any time, in any dose, for any reason -- except, in this case, for bona fide pain relief due to some physical injury or illness.
That is just plain wrong. Poets used to use opium in the 19th century in what author Richard Middleton called "a series of quarterly carouses," in order to improve their creativity and give themselves new ideas. In other words, they knew that there was the potential for addiction and they scheduled their use accordingly. That's what happens when folks are educated about drugs rather than made to fear them.
And yet Andrew would agree with the Drug Warriors that even such wise use is to be forbidden -- or at least to be emphatically discouraged. If he had had his way in the 19th and early 20th century, we would have a far less inspiring oeuvre of horror stories by Poe and Lovecraft, who devised entire literary landscapes out of their opium-inspired dreams.
Much of his worry is over addiction -- and yet Andrew Weil says nothing about the Psychiatric Pill Mill to which 1 in 4 American women are addicted for life.
The question that he fails to answer is: why is opiate addiction so much worse than a Big Pharma addiction, especially when we're talking about the time-honored smoking of opium? Once you factor out the problems that are caused by the Drug War itself, we see that the difference between our reactions to addiction is an esthetic one: We are not upset when an SSRI patient suddenly goes off their meds because their suffering will be internal and take place in their home, where they will merely wish that they were dead. We can go about our business as usual. The heroin addict, however, is more likely to show up on the street and rob banks and so forth because his unnecessarily expensive medicine is not regularly available. This impacts us personally and so we consider heroin addiction to be a huge problem.
When it comes to Big Pharma drugs, however, we are not troubled at all. To the contrary, if these people are off their meds, we simply tell them to get back on them. Sure, the SSRI user has been turned into a ward of the healthcare state by the psychiatric pill mill, but that's their problem. This is an odd reaction, by the way, given that Weil's main charge against heroin is that it leaves one in a constant state of dependence. At least the heroin addict is not forced to share his innermost thoughts every three months with a psychiatric intern who is 1/2 or even 1/3 his own age.
Thus Weil inexplicably ignores the great pharmacological dystopia of our time. But he did say at least one thing about antidepressants that really struck home for me:
"Some commentators complain that widespread prescription of SSRIs has made many Americans less interesting and less creative."
I hate to say this, but that is so true in my experience -- and that's a down side that no one has ever ascribed to opiates. Meanwhile, the researchers who blissfully ignore the endless downsides of SSRIs and SNRIs are training their microscopes on MDMA even as we speak in an effort to find even the tiniest possible danger in that drug, so that they can dramatically cry: "See? MDMA has to be kept illegal forever, for anyone, in any dose, at any time, ever!" Meanwhile, Big Pharma peddles drugs on prime-time television whose side effects include 'death' itself and no one bats an eyelash.
This is enormous hypocrisy to which Americans are blinded thanks to the Drug War ideology of substance demonization.
Yes, we should teach folks to avoid opiate addiction -- and we can do that. The poets cited by Middleton managed to pull that off. But we should not so obsess over downsides as to pretend that upsides do not even exist. To the contrary, in a sane world we would be studying how opium achieves its amazing effect of giving us metaphorical dreams in which we can mentally separate ourselves from our pains and problems. We should be studying how the brain works in conjunction with opium to render such insightful reveries. But instead, Weil agrees with the Drug Warrior that we should deny, a priori, the psychological benefits of opium in preference for demonizing that drug.
Finally, Weil seems unaware of the fact that the Chinese were responsibly using opium as a culturally sanctioned practice centuries before the British started selling it to them. The downsides of opium use only came on the Western radar when the British Anti-Opium League came along in the 19th century and did for opium what the American Anti-Saloon League would eventually do for liquor, namely, painted its use in the darkest moralistic colors imaginable.
Oh, sorry, there is one more thing that Andrew Weil got wrong in his book. He keeps implying that heroin users have an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. But this is just a drug-war canard. Sure, we all have problems, but why do we pathologize the desire to be perky and alive and vibrant and bursting with energy? Surely, that's an understandable desire, the desire to feel euphoric and "good to go." That desire is not something that we have to refer to some Freudian trauma or other. If anyone has an underlying problem, it's those of us who (like myself) naively put their emotional lives in the hands of a psychiatric establishment that is going to addict them for life to ineffective meds that not only fail to make them euphoric, but which actually rob them of their creativity as well! When are the Gabriel Mate's of the world going to look into the underlying pathologies that turned folks like myself into custom-made patsies for the psychiatric pill mill?
But Weil is only human. We've all been told that the political category of "drugs" is junk for the last 100+ years and both academics and screenwriters have written accordingly. That's why I'm constantly reading on this topic, to uncover the false beliefs that I myself hold as a result of my life long indoctrination with Drug War ideology. So far in my reading, Weil seems to be one of the least brainwashed authors on Planet Earth, but even he could benefit from living by the following maxim which I have created for my own use: question everything you have ever been told or thought about so-called "drugs"? And after you've done so, question yourself again. For to paraphrase a line from William Shirer's classic book on Hitler: "No one who has not lived for years in a DRUG WAR SOCIETY can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda."
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. 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.
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.
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)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company