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The Problem of Drugs

Christopher W Thomson

Published: 2010
Categories(s): Non-Fiction, Body, mind & spirit, New Thought
Tag(s): drugs prohibition rights responsibilities

Chapter 1
I was 11 or 12 when I first came across At that age I was
already quite aware of the inherent flaws in the world around me, and
its resulting contradictions and problems. Even as a pre-pubescent, I was
well aware of the poisoning influence of capitalism and its ugly and stu-
pid sidekick - the tabloid media - and their necessity to complicate
simple problems to create areas of profit.
Sitting on the family PC night after night, waiting patiently for each
page to dribble through the 56K modem, I was in tune with the notion
that this was a place where truth could not be held hostage to an agenda.
It was a wild west war-zone where only the strongest ideas would win.
Here, truth could conquer all. It was a great hope, but I couldn’t see how
it would begin to make an acidic impact on the tumourous structures of
the ‘real’ world. Over a decade later though, it’s pleasing to see the old
control structures dissolving. I honestly didn’t think I’d see it in my
Another thing I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime was the end of ‘The
War on Drugs’. Reading through the archives of Erowid at a tender, yet
already worldly-wise age, I could see how prohibition was society’s
greatest neurosis, and was the main barrier to its own healing process. I
particularly remember reading a humorous, but heavily stereotypical
article about the authors’ experiences with different drugs. The experi-
ence report that really stuck with me was that of mescaline, which they
said had made them abandon clothing, money and possessions. Here, I
could see, was a way of medicating ourselves back to sanity.
From that point and to the present day, I have been a strong believer
in the failure of prohibition, and actively interested in its alternatives.
Until now though, I haven’t considered myself an advocate. I felt it to be
too important an issue to be vocal about without research and experi-
ence. As a result, I’ve spent many years swallowing when I should’ve
been shouting, and my anger at the situation has festered and infected

my persona. This cannot do. It is time to get this out in the open. It is OK
though; for the first time in modern history, I’m in good company. I'm
with the majority.

Chapter 2
My main aim in this essay is to help to clarify the rhetoric around the
problem of drugs, their use, and their abuse. A few minutes observing a
debate about the issue should be sufficient for understanding that there
is no descriptive common ground. Both sides of the debate use the same
words in different ways, and as a result cannot come to an understand-
ing. In other words, the first problem to solve is one of definition. What
is a drug?
The word itself simply means this: a substance that has a physiological
effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body. However,
the problem lies not in this meaning of the word, but in the mul-
tiple acquired meanings in general usage, some positive, some negative.
There are other words we can use if we wish to be particular - narcotic,
medicine, entheogen, hallucinogen, stimulant, depressant - these are all
common terms with specific drug related meanings, yet the word drug is
used to signify all these different properties. The root of the problem
however, is the distinction made between legal and illegal drugs. Debate
around the issue flounders because of this one simple mistake; the as-
sumption that this distinction has real meaning.
The only difference between a legal drug and an illegal drug is that a
group of lawmakers have decided that one should not be available to
their public. For the prohibitionists, this fact is considered primary.
Hopefully it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the reader to recog-
nise the similarities in this situation to the kind of warped, dogmatic
thinking that the Enlightenment did so well to free us from. To put it
simply, the distinction of legality is not based upon scientific enquiry,
nor public vote. It is based solely upon moral bias.
For this reason, it is necessary to use the word drug in debate, but to
understand fully its intended meaning; a catch-all for every substance
that produces an effect when introduced into the body. To use it as a dis-
tinction of legality is to muddy the rhetoric beyond resolution. Coffee is

as much a drug as Cocaine. Codeine, as much as Cannabis. The only
devices with which to debate their differences are the effects they pro-
duce - the effect on physiology and psychology, their toxicity, and any
other phenomena that removal from the assumed state of equilibrium
produces. The problem of drugs must be debated without deference to
their legal status. This will allow for a descriptive common ground to be
developed, something which will hopefully begin to reconcile both sides
of the debate for the benefit of all.

Chapter 3
In the past few years, I think due in part to the communicative and con-
nective influence of the internet, the public's attitude toward the drug
problem has become significantly less prohibitionist, leading to the
present, polarised debate. The internet, like TV, is itself a drug, and quite
an insidious one at that. It has completely uprooted the constipated
class-based social structures that a marriage of Christianity and Capital-
ism had conceived, and that the counterculture of the 60’s began to shake
loose. It is no coincidence that the computer revolution originated in the
wake of the psychedelic 60's. I consider the internet to be the realisation
of the psychedelic dream, and the values inherent in the experience itself.
It is difficult to quantify, but our culture - our language, our art, our en-
tertainment - has been completed infected by the notions of that naive
and negligent premonition. The only thing missing is the drugs
However, this is an idea I will return to and explore in detail later.
Presently, it is necessary to return to the main objective of this essay and
explore the problem of drugs, and consider something that both sides of
the debate tend to ignore, to the detriment of their arguments: The reas-
ons why people use drugs. Although the reasons for drug use are com-
plex, a fundamental can be sought. Remember, we are not discussing leg-
ality here; the reasons for a person to disobey a law are not our concern
at the moment.
The fundamental reason that a person uses a drug is this: To remove
themselves from what I called earlier ‘the assumed state of equilibrium’.
For the majority, this is sobriety. However, sobriety itself is not - or
should not be - a linear experience. It comes in infinite varieties, with
mood being particularly vulnerable to the influences of company, appet-
ite and activity. Our ‘sober’ experience of ourselves varies from hour to
hour, and often oscillates in cycles that we eventually try to break free

from. Why else do you think that the majority of the Western world
reaches for a caffeine fix when they wake?
Although I consider the root of all drug use to be borne of the same in-
stinct, I do recognise that this instinct is manipulated by the body and
mind for many, many purposes, and this is where the complexity arises.
Faced with this, is there any distinction we can make between positive
and negative reasons for drug use? Or to frame it differently; acceptable
and unacceptable drug use?
I believe strongly that an individual has the right to control their body
and mind. This means that they should have the right to use any drug
they wish. However, I think most would agree that this is an idealistic
goal, and could be chaotic in practice, inviting stupidity into a realm
where it courts danger. There is a need for responsibility; a balance. Ul-
timately, any individual drug use that does not have a negative impact
on others should be tolerated. Any drug use that impacts negatively on
others should be considered unacceptable, and the individual concerned,
irresponsible. In this system, the individual’s right to pursue a habit that
impacts themselves negatively will eventually become obsolete: In a
world where we are all connected, I believe it will be much easier for a
person to recognise that these behaviours will also have a negative im-
pact on the people around them, and cessation of negative habits will be-
come a formality for most.
Ideological as this is, at the heart of the prohibitionist ideology is the
concept that sobriety is truth, and any drug induced state of conscious-
ness is a delusion. This rhetoric is particularly amusing when coming
from your average caffeine fiend, or sugar junkie. It has never occurred
to them that their delusions of purity are just as pronounced. As I previ-
ous stated, sobriety is not fixed. It is not a linear state of being. It fluctu-
ates and flickers. It is not the solid ground on which to base one’s per-
sonal understanding of consciousness. As the psychonauts of the 60’s
discovered, meditation is the key to anchoring oneself in the experience
of cognition, and it is a necessity for anyone wishing to sail the deep
ocean of mind.
The idea of sobriety does however, help us to understand why drug
use is so prevalent in our society. It is a question often asked, and is no
doubt the bane of prohibitionists: Why, in our cultured, modern, edu-
cated and rational world, is drug use so widespread, so thoroughly en-
grained in the fabric of our society? The answer is simple. The structures
built by our culture, which stress hard work, obedience, efficiency, and
countless other dehumanising values, force our sober state of being to

become more and more linear, robotic and fixed. With this mechanising
force oppressing our natural will and innate humanity, the need for an
escape grows greater. Drug use is escapism, but it is the escape from the
prison we have captured ourselves in. This is where the instinct to use
drugs emerges from. It is a legitimate self-defence mechanism. Unfortu-
nately, it has been polluted by several thousand years of toxic ideology
and penal (penile!) philosophy, the very bricks and bars with which we
have built our psychological prisons. More often than not, drug use un-
der these conditions just reinforces the walls between us and our free-
dom. This is the tragedy of the situation, and one of the main reasons for
the disparity in understanding between debaters of the subject.

Chapter 4
It is now necessary to consider the question of prohibition and explore
some of the arguments presented by prohibitionists. It is worth stating
that the following analysis is a result of my own opinion, formed
through research and experience. It is biased, but not unjustly so. I can
only speak for myself, as much as I’d like to speak for others. As stated
before, the purpose of this article is not to prove anything; it is to clarify
the debate.
The first argument for the prohibition of drugs, and possibly the
strongest, is the relationship between drug use and children. To be clear
about this point, it includes all implications that drug use has for
‘minors’ - citizens that are not yet legal adults. I should also reiterate that
the use of the word drug here is not implying their legal status, even
though we are considering the implications of prohibitive law. Our chil-
dren are drug users from a very early age, through sugar products, tele-
vision, and countless other habits. The debate as to whether those experi-
ences have a negative impact on their development is not for this essay
to explore.
If prohibition of drugs was to be abolished, the main problem that we
would face is how to control drug use in a way that would protect
minors from any negative effects. It should be understood in this situ-
ation that minors would not be entitled to the same rights as adults,
primarily because they are not legally capable of upholding the same re-
sponsibilities as them. A minor’s right to drug use is highly undesirable
in such a system. I do believe that a desired model for this system is
already present in the UK. Within the home, anyone aged 5 or older is al-
lowed to drink alcohol. The responsibility lies entirely with the parents,
and it is their duty to deal with any negative effects resulting from their
decision to allow their child to use that drug. The availability of alcohol
to purchase is limited to adults only, and they are trusted to use the drug
responsibly, without causing harm to others. Despite the obvious

disparity between this ideal and reality, I would suggest that this is the
best model for a post-prohibition system.
There are of course, major objections to this. The first would take the
form of a typical scare story that would entertain the possibility that
heroin addicts would allow their children to use the drug. I would argue
that this would be completely anathema to a system where personal re-
sponsibility and minimisation of negative impact was primary. I would
also argue that the current system encourages recklessness, and has led
to a skewing of the balance between rights and responsibilities in our
The second objection, as previously mentioned, would pertain to per-
ceived failures in the alcohol regulation system. It is obvious to most that
the current system is failing on almost every level, and that alcohol abuse
is the major drug problem in our society. For many commentators, they
see this as a result of its legality and regard it as a substance worthy of
more regulation or even prohibition. I do not wish to go into the USA’s
brief period of alcohol prohibition here, but I believe that the reader will
find that it only serves to provide a standardised list of all the negative
impacts prohibitionist policies have.
If we accept the idea put forward in chapter 3 of this essay, that drug
use is borne of a need to escape from a constricted reality that our culture
creates to serve its own agenda, the pandemic of alcoholism becomes an
obvious consequence in a society where little else has the same availabil-
ity, effectiveness, and social acceptability. It is the very act of prohibition
that has created the problem the prohibitionists will argue is a major
reason for indulging in their silly schemes. This is a perfect example of
the retrograde and roundabout logic that exemplifies their arguments.
Another good example is the argument that people should simply re-
frain from using illegal drugs because they are illegal. However, as this
distinction is arbitrary, and not based on any measured analysis of their
effects, this argument is moot. The extension of this argument, and one
which I will admit really irks me, is the extrapolation of the abandon-
ment of drug prohibition to other prohibited activities such as rape or
murder. In this mode of rhetoric, the presence of rape and murder in so-
ciety, despite their prohibition, leads them to be considered acceptable
for comparison. The claim is made that to describe the drug laws as inef-
fective is to describe the laws prohibiting rape and murder as ineffective,
and if we were to abolish these laws, society would fall apart.
This is an appalling way to make an argument. Thankfully, we have
already covered the main objection to this twisted logic: A post-

prohibitionist system would be based upon the minimisation of negative
consequences to others, and the upholding of personal responsibility as
the prerequisite to the right of use. This is hardly worthy of comparison
to acts which by definition are the most harmful to other human beings,
and appear thoroughly inhumane to the sane observer.

Chapter 5
It should be obvious to the reader by this point that I have tried to steer
as clear of particular arguments as I possibly can. The prohibition debate
however, as it currently stands, is generally concerned with the details
that I have not discussed here. What will happen if we legalise Cannabis
but nothing else? What if we decriminalise all drugs? Will drug use rise
if we tolerate it? Does prohibition drive control and profit into the hands
of crime syndicates? Is prohibition a drain on the economy? All these are
worthy questions, but the ability for them to be answered properly is
clouded by the language and rhetoric we use. It is vital that we abandon
the distinction between legal and illegal drugs in debate and research. A
drug is a drug, no matter of its position within the moral perspective of
the individual and their society.
It is also imperative that we stress the balance between rights and re-
sponsibilities throughout the issue of drug use. A drug user, no matter
what their substance of choice is, has a responsibility to ensure that neg-
ative consequences for others are minimised. In the same vein, govern-
ments and corporations have the responsibility to ensure that drug pro-
duction aspires to similar goals. It is from this base that we can hopefully
begin to engage in enlightened debate about the end of the ‘War on
Drugs’, and start to envision some concrete details regarding a post-pro-
hibitionist society. From this mezzanine of sorts, we should also be able
to start modelling the reasons for drug use, and rid ourselves of the un-
necessary complexities that forbid a clear understanding of this problem
at present. It is my hope that in the age of the internet, this will not be
struggle, but an effort made worthwhile by its resonance with truth and
beauty, providing a cultural catharsis that will propel us into a new age
of love and understanding.

Chapter 6
Primarily, this essay has been a way for me to express an opinion so
deeply rooted in my persona that it has come to define me, even in my
silence. I've known for a long time that this is my cross to bear, the cause
I'll live humbly for. In the interests of disclosure, I'm not a heavy drug
user, aside from a prodigious love of beer and wine, an on-off relation-
ship with tobacco, a lust for sugared products, a need for caffeinated
fizzy drinks, a occasional opportunity to indulge in Cannabis, and a
commitment to psychedelics as a spiritual path. Add to that a violent in-
ternet addiction and I do begin to think that I ought to meditate more…
I'd like to conclude this essay with a few personal reflections regarding
some of the ideas presented here. In particular, the idea that drug use is
part of a natural defence mechanism that seeks to heal. It was, after all,
Timothy Leary who pointed out that to understand the atom, you first
need to smash it. How can we expect to heal something if we don't first
understand its problem in relation to itself?
It has become cliché to describe the terror of the situation facing hu-
manity at present. Although hope is waiting on the horizon, and we are
beginning to move slowly towards a brighter future, there are still too
many negative variables conspiring towards a major, species-changing
event. We are inhabitants on a planet more vast and complex in its struc-
ture than we can approximate with our best computers or brightest
minds. The Earth is alive, and considerably wiser than us in its own
realm of consciousness, so alien from our understanding that this must
be. It comes as no surprise to me the use of drugs since the 1960's seems
to have been the main trigger for the growth of the ecological movement.
I refer of course to the natural drugs, borne of the earth, such as Can-
nabis, and psilocybin containing mushrooms. These seem to be part of a
self-defence mechanism inherent in the earth system, designed to dis-
solve the cancerous modalities of consciousness that treat the Earth as a
commodity, and its inhabitants as consumers.

During one of my first mushroom trips, I had an experience that con-
firmed this idea for me. It began with a vision, of a dismal night; cold,
wet and windy - much like a typical October in Shetland. There seemed
to be a dirt road streaking through a rugged country; and parked on it,
an elaborate carriage, much like the one in Cinderella, but with a dark
foreboding decoration, a muddy mix of browns and purples aching
through the driving rain.
I was then inside the carriage, and through the darkness I could make
out a being sitting beside me, wearing a long ceremonial robe of sorts,
with a large pointed hood, that in the same moment reminded me of a
clitoris and of the nippled liberty cap mushrooms deep within my stom-
ach. There was no face visible. In retrospect, the being's appearance was
like that of Death, although this was the only point of comparison
between these two beings.
The vision then turned into a conversation, or communication. I can-
not remember what I said, as I seemed to communicate with unfinished
thoughts and facial expressions, but what this being told me has stayed
with me since. It said, very clearly, that the mushroom that I had inges-
ted was seeking to establish a 'symbiotic' relationship with humanity. I
highlight the word symbiotic because what was described/shown was
more than just the common understanding of symbiosis and is difficult
to put into language. It was as if the mushroom was infecting our civil-
isation with its own ideas and values, in order to save the world we both
live in. It implied that the conclusion of this process would be a merging
of the two species, a psychological symbiosis, and that this process could
already be seen in the development of the internet, a mycelial master-
piece constructed in metals and matter but connecting our minds togeth-
er into a supra-organism.
I do not wish to speculate on the origin of this idea, nor do I wish to
dismiss it as fantasy. I want to present it to you the reader, so that you
can make up your own mind about the real agenda of those seeking to
prohibit certain drugs, and to consider that these drugs may in fact have
an agenda themselves.
It seems inconceivable to me that prohibition will last much longer. I
just wonder if we will be ready for the full implications of that decision
when it comes.

Food for the mind