Why Science is the Handmaiden of the Drug War

Brian Quass
4 min readJun 17, 2023

In his preface to “Reality Is Not What It Seems,” Carlo Rovelli embraces the modern triumphalist myth about science, that it is leading us irreversibly onward to greater and greater truths.

“Scientific thinking,” he says, “explores and redraws the world, gradually offering us better and better images of it, teaching us to think in ever more effective ways. Science is a continual exploration of ways of thinking.”

In reality, such a statement makes sense only with some enormous qualifications. Science is not really an exploration of ways of thinking: it is an exploration of one particular way of thinking: namely, the rationalist reductionist way of thinking, in which we start with the unstated philosophical assumption that the whole can be understood by studying its parts, and that the smaller that these parts are, the closer we get to “reality” by studying them.

Not only are these premises highly debatable, but they have a body count. They have an impact in the real world.

The scientific reason why I am not allowed to use many godsend medicines is the fact that scientists (and the DEA) claim that no reductionist proof has been found that they “really” work. Sure, I may say that coca helps me feel better and have great endurance. I may point out that HG Wells and Jules Verne reported that Coca Wine helped them to write great stories. I may remind the scientist that the long-lived Peruvian Indians chewed the coca leaf on a daily basis for millennia and considered it divine. But reductionist science places no faith in anecdote and history. They want to know what is going on at the molecular level when a human being ingests coca. Does the drug clearly cause a series of molecular events that can be reliably documented to increase a user’s levels of serotonin and other “feel-good hormones”?

In reality, modern scientists are even blinder than this account might imply. Not only do they insist on reductionist proof, but researchers generally write papers to document only abuse and misuse, seldom if ever to document the positive effects of “drugs.” That’s where the grant money lies after all, in demonizing outlawed substances. That’s why we have a National Institute of Drug Abuse rather than a National Institute of Drug Use. The assumption is that psychoactive “drugs” are bad. The scientist’s job is simply to prove that statement in a reductionist fashion, complete with PowerPoint presentations and public databases (and above all, a lot of impressive-looking footnotes!), that will convincingly demonstrate that the drug is evil from a scientific point of view as well as an emotional one.

I say that reductionist science places no faith in anecdote and history. But it also places no faith in common sense.

Consider the title of the 2019 article by Dr. Robert Glatter in Forbes magazine in which the reductionist author asks: “Can Laughing Gas Help People with Treatment-resistant Depression?”

What? The Reader’s Digest has known for 100 years now that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter has to help the depressed, by definition. And, since we’re required to state the obvious here, let me add that laughing helps in two ways, psychologically speaking: first there is the laughter itself, which decreases blood pressure and leads to bodily and psychical relaxation, and second there is the anticipation of upcoming laughter, which also conduces to a relaxed body, for it’s a commonplace psychological fact that one’s mood improves to the extent that they are “looking forward” to positive episodes in their life. I feel like I’m “talking down” to the reader by stating these obvious truths explicitly, but these are the common-sense facts that reductionists like Glatter completely ignore. Why? Because they are in thrall to the purblind outlook of reductionist science — and, of course, because they’re scared to death of violating Drug War sensibilities in this supposedly “free” country of ours.

For this reason, science today is the handmaiden of Drug War ideology. It is not giving us “better and better images” of the world, it is not teaching us to think in more effective ways. It is teaching us rather to “shut up and take our meds.” Why? Because our “meds” are created based on reductionist assumptions about human beings, namely that we are interchangeable widgets amenable to the same neurochemical interventions for our psychological complaints. It’s not a coincidence of course that this way of thinking dovetails with the need of capitalism to crank out one-size-fits-all cures for things like depression and anxiety. In fact, the wheels of the Dr. Feel Good caravans of the 1800s never stopped rolling: it’s just that today the caravans claim to be offering “scientific” cures, a label that awes the crowd and helps them swallow the bitter pill of prohibition.

As for the “scientifically created meds” that are now being doled out like candy, we all know how well they worked out. After 50 years of the psychiatric pill mill for SSRIs, America remains the most depressed nation on earth. The only change is that we are now also the most chemically dependent nation on earth, with 1 in 4 American women now obliged to take these mind-numbing SSRIs every day of their life — all while we outlaw naturally occurring medicines that have inspired entire religions in the past.

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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