Addicted to Addiction in Drug War USA

One reason why Drug War prohibition has lasted now over 100 years is the fact that otherwise sensible Americans have yielded to the temptation to medicalize and moralize the so-called “addiction problem,” turning it into the symptom of some existential crisis. These well-intentioned liberals fail to recognize the fact that the term “addiction” is merely a political concept in a country that embraces the hypocritical moral standards of the Drug War. As Thomas Szasz pointed out in his 1974 ground-breaking book entitled “Ceremonial Chemistry”, President John F. Kennedy and his wife regularly used amphetamines during the early ’60s, courtesy of Dr. Max Jacobson, in order to keep them fresh for their whirlwind schedules, yet they were never considered addicts. They were just taking a medication, don’t you see? Meanwhile, had the no-name poor indulged in a similar habit, they would have been instantly labeled as addicts, thrown into jail, subjected to moralizing counseling sessions (in which folks like Gabriel Maté would have searched for their “inner pain”), and been sent to 12-step programs to be reminded how helpless they were in the face of powerful chemical substances. Meanwhile, the poor people’s “pusher” would have been thrown in jail and labeled as “vermin,” the same term that the NAZIs reserved for Jews and homosexuals.

The Drug War in fact invented the idea of the morally flawed addict. Before 1914, regular opium users were described as habitués. After the Harrison Narcotics Act, they were referred to with the judgmental term “addicts.”

If these examples do not convince the reader that the term “addiction” is a political term, consider the fact that the great addiction crisis of our time does not even qualify as an addiction in the minds of most psychiatrists today. One in 4 American women and 1 in 8 American men are addicted to Big Pharma antidepressants, many of which are harder to kick than heroin, but psychiatrists refuse to even call this an addiction, nor even to condemn it using the pedantic equivocation of “chemical dependency.” To do so would kill the golden goose of the psychiatric pill mill, both for psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical companies which supply them with a highly limited and highly addictive pharmacy. When heroin users need to stay on their illegal “drugs,” they are “addicts”; when tens of millions of Americans need to stay on their legal “meds,” they are good citizens, responsibly taking care of their mental health issues. They are on the wonderful-sounding “maintenance medications,” don’t you know (insert heavenly music here), and not on dirty evil “drugs” (insert acid rock here).

Finally, pundits have no business drawing conclusions about the topic of addiction in the first place. Why? Because we live in a world that has outlawed almost all mood medicines that might make addiction treatment actually work, or help us to avoid addiction altogether. To opine about the cause of addiction in such a society is like opining about the cause of poor diets in a country that outlaws almost all food: it is a misleading and futile enterprise to the extent that it ignores the huge problem that prohibition is causing in both cases.

There would be no morbid focus on “addiction” in a free world. Rather, we would have pharmacologically savvy empaths who would work with clients (not patients) to help them “be all they can be in life,” using psychoactive substances for that purpose if the client so desired. The goal would not be a hypocritically defined “sobriety,” it would be the client’s ability to succeed in life and accomplish their own goals, not those of drug-hating Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy.

Drug warriors will immediately scream that such freedom will result in addictions — but they have no leg (not even an ankle) to stand on, since the Drug War status quo has led to the biggest chemical dependency in American history — and it’s not even the opioid crisis: it’s the above-mentioned fact that millions of Americans have been turned into eternal patients by the Drug War.

Take me, for instance: I have been on Effexor for 25 years, and I am more depressed than ever. Yet, one hit of cocaine or opium would quickly “bring me around.” And then offering me, say, a weekly “hit” of the same would cure me for life from my depression, not because such drugs falsely claim to address some chemical imbalance in my depressed mind, but because one is naturally less depressed when they have something to look forward to, in this case a vacation from one’s otherwise morbid turn of mind. It’s called the power of anticipation, a motivator which modern psychology dogmatically ignores, since to acknowledge it would suggest positive uses for illegal drugs and thereby run afoul of Drug War superstition which insists that drugs can bring nothing but heartbreak the moment that they are criminalized.

Even the most slam-dunk cases of “addiction” are usually not what they seem in the moralizing eye of the Drug Warrior: Dr. William Henry Welch was a founder of Johns Hopkins University and a lifelong user of morphine. Hearing this, the average Drug Warrior will express amazement that Welch could have accomplished so much while yet using the drug. What they fail to understand is that Welch accomplished so much BECAUSE of the drug: it gave him the stamina and mental focus that he was looking for. These are the same brain-addled Drug Warriors who insist that Robin Williams could have been “so much more” had he only said no to drugs. Which is pure nonsense. Robin Williams said “yes” to so-called drugs because he CHOSE the life that he led and he wanted that pharmacological boost in his life in order to be the person that he elected to be. It is mere Christian Science ideology to insist that Williams would have been a better comedian or Welch a better doctor had they abstained from using chemical substances of which politicians have disapproved.

Would Marcus Aurelius have been a better emperor had he renounced the use of opium?

Would Plato have been a better philosopher had he refused to drink the psychedelic kykeon at Eleusis?

Would HG Wells and Jules Verne have written better stories had they renounced their use of coca wine? They certainly didn’t think so. Though they all may well have been less effective and inspiring in life had they refused intoxication on the basis of some early Christian Science metaphysic.

These kinds of scruples about “drugs” would be absurd except in a Drug War society, in which we fetishize this politically created category of substances and hold it responsible for all evil.

And so the modern take on ‘addiction’ is pure nonsense in the era of the Drug War. Why? Because Drug Warriors do not want to get Americans off of drugs — they want to get Americans on the “right” drugs, namely the ones that boost the bottom line of pharmaceutical companies, thereby enriching the politicians who represent them in Congress.

The opioid crisis, of course, is yet another natural result of drug prohibition, which outlaws non-addictive plant medicine while incentivizing dealers to sell the drugs most readily to-hand, even (indeed especially) when those drugs are extremely addictive. That said, even methamphetamine and crack cocaine can be used on a non-addictive basis — but that’s something the Drug Warrior will never tell you because their plan is always to demonize the substances that they deride as “drugs,” not to teach about them in order to facilitate safe use. The fact that they dislike true drug education is clear given that they outlaw and otherwise discourage mere research on the substances that they have decided to demonize.

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Brian Quass

Founder of AbolishTheDEA.com, whose life purpose is to expose the philosophical absurdity of America's unprecedented war on substances