The government has cast a shadow of fear over the entire subject of drug use. Society trembles at the law as congress struggles to push through a law that would count selling drugs as the equivalent of terrorism. [*1] Those who are known drug users are banished from the spotlight and regarded as those who weren't content with a normal life. Yet with fear as their base, with prison sentences for drug crimes that excel those of murderers and rapists, the government then begins to unveil its "public information" on drugs -- what may justly be called propaganda. With this unease and terror that the government has instilled in its people, society and culture become the trembling jury on the matter of drug use. The opinions are cast out and the polls are collected. There seems to be an overwhelming consensus that usage of chemicals for altering the mind will destroy intelligence, that any person to regularly use these substances must automatically fit the stereotype of a "junkie," and that there can be no justification for legalizing these profane activities. Even the downfall of the economy is sometimes blamed on drug users, based on the assumption that "drugs destroy one's will power to labor and instill a sentiment of laziness."
I contend that these are nothing more than lies. Now that the government has taken a program to promote them, I contend that they are now nothing more than mindless propaganda.
But in a nation, with a marked history where goodness has only prevailed through social disobedience, there can be little doubt as to why there is such a strong front on the side of chemical usage. We want the liberty to do with our bodies as we please, the essential message of every liberation movement, from women's rights to abolition. These movements made progress in civilization by contending that a humane creed was just, by offering sacrificing their time and dedicating their lives to a cause. Soon, the culture, the society, adaptated, to these new movements and their claims for justice -- and artwork reflected the depth of struggle, music expressed the misery of oppression, and literature showed a new light on an old way of thinking.
In a way, I believe that the right to use substances freely is the liberation of the mind, the freedom of the spirit. All throughout the centuries, glorious men have been the first to denounce the evils of censorship. They argued that by burning men of virtue and kindness, because their heart does not allow them to conform, the better lot of civilization is being destroyed. To think as you wish, to believe as your mind judged, to hold true or false the creeds of society was your right, and no law should ever infringe upon this. The intentions of these great thinkers was to create a society where science and art were accelerated by the freedom of the soul, but that powers that existed opposed this. The ruling class had a vested interest in keeping things the way the were. By promoting ideas of liberty, of freedom of conscience, the masses would question their leaders, and so it was that censorship came about. No longer were men able to say what they thought, but what they were allowed to think became limited. Everywhere censorship prevails, the pure spirit of liberty rests in a dark age.
Fortunately, our people became more aware that the right to say and think as you believed was instrumental to a true and living liberty. I am not saying that the daemons of censorship have left the arena, that the people are free to say and think what they will entirely. It is quite true that the First Amendment of the Constitution may very well be the most abused and neglected, as far as the police gestapos and the congress goes. A man's opinion, especially in matters of politics or society, are enough to grant officers the right to detain him indefinitely, and the body of laws in this country allow any person to be arrested at any time, for countless many crimes. But so it goes, that those who which to oppress the liberty of the body, will first attack the freedom of the mind.
With that, I open this piece... A reason to do drugs. A defense of the urge to inebriate, the desire to intoxicate, the pleas of a soul to forget or remember, whichever the substance happens to be. A reason to use mind-altering chemicals, psychotropic substances, spiritual gateways.
Life: Happiness and Hope
It has been the marked crest of every man's honest journey -- the epitome of the ultimate quest, the goal of a life well spent, the purpose of an individual's search for freedom. Everyone wants to be filled with spiritual enlightenment and philosophical truth. We want to know. We want to know who we are as individuals. Almost hopelessly, we analyze our actions, our responses, our thoughts, our ideas, our beliefs, our conditions of life. And we try to find one crystalline and perfect sentence, one seamless idea, one concrete thought, to describe ourselves. So that we can hold on to this precious truth, and cherish it with the pride that we can say, "I know who I am."
We want to be able to take who are we, and be honest with the world about it. The idea that we have to be ashamed of how we feel, no matter how taboo or unpopular, the treasured thought that we can be emotionally naked without having to fear response, this idea, and this idea alone, has been something all have wanted to incorporate. Some have found it hopeless, and trekked in the other direction, hoping to conceal what they thought they could never express. Others were afraid of being hurt, afraid of living with the pain that accompanies liberty, and so they sheltered themselves with a mental barrier. Among those who have dealt with breaking down this mental barrier, becoming living symbols of liberty, it is no secret that a soul becomes dim and fades without the light of another's presence. So it should be, that loneliness accompanies depression, that family accompanies happiness -- the only friend of sadness is silence, liberty walks hand in hand with contentment.
Finally, we want to be able to understand the world. The physical sciences of anthropology, psychology, biology, physics, all manage to fascinate us and allow thoughtfulness to grow bright with reason. Yet we wish to understand the world, not as a physical entity, but the creatures within this world. Our friends, our enemies, our loved ones, those who betrayed us... We want to know how they feel, how they think, and why they do. Those conditions which fostered their resentment, their pleasure, their vengeance, their aggression, their passiveness, their charity, their kindness, their affection -- a longing exists within us to understand those conditions, how they create the sentiments that are harbored by minds. With this understanding, of ourselves, of the courage to be honest, of the workings of the world -- we want to be able to interact, to touch another's spirit, to meld with the inner beauty of another to create unforgettable memories. Memories that one day we will travel through as a means to remind ourselves how strong we were to say what we had to say, how fortunate it was that boldness should release us at that moment. Tears and laughter have often be regarded as the depth of a person's soul, but that is only because such actions have been caused by emotions so strong, that there was no ability to resist responding physically. If the day should come that a gentle touch or an affectionate gaze would be enough to reveal our thoughts, then it may be a society very much worth living in.
In short, we want to be free. We want to taste the nectar of liberty. But just as it is that a man is not free, when he is threatened with death as an alternative to slavery, so it is that we should be human in our civilization. We will fear rejection, insults, mockery, and ultimately, humiliation, if we say what we think, if we act the way we feel, if we do the things we really want to do. Those ancient ideas of what is socially awkward, of what is just and unjust culturally, come back with a sting in our heart. "Just let it by," perhaps we tell our conscience, "It's the way things have to be," or maybe, "It would incur more suffering to do things abnormally, no matter how honest they are." So the last of these excuses is most enlightening, in that we are all terrified of the response of a society, that looks upon our inner selves as something not unlike a freak -- a living, breathing social violation.
A Reason to do Drugs
I admit it -- it may sound absurd, or ridiculous, when I claim that drugs, that mind-altering chemicals, will allow a greater understanding and confidence of self, as well as society. All throughout our lives, we live in the same body, our thought processes typically go unvaried. As we grow and develop in a society, a society that nurtures us through schooling and home life, we grasp the accepted values and ideals of society. We become comfortable, at ease, secure. We follow the rules and regulations that have been set forward to us, whether it is on attire and dress or the rules of dating and approaching a member of the opposite sex. As we accept the truth of society's mannerisms, we become less and less freedom. We find that we must go through pointless and sometimes even awkward procedures to say what we want, to express how we feel, to act in a way that our conscience has justified. In a society where conformity reigns, it cannot be argued that thinking becomes standardized. Perhaps the purest moment for many of us is that of extreme youth. It is not perceived as sin for small children to walk naked, indoors and even outdoors, so long as it is the child's yard. The words they say, whether revealing a secret or expressing a poor opinion of a person, tend to be excused. Yet as this child grows, letting go of sincerity of word and honesty of thought become a standard part of growing up. So, it may very well be true, that the purest moment of a human being, a socialized human being, is their first day of consciousness.
When a person uses a drug, they are given the opportunity to throw off the chains that society has put on them. The mold that we are forced into slowly begins to crumble. And in the case of certain psychedelic drugs, it feels as though a sledge hammer struck with mold. There is no doubt that alcohol has this effect, as it is seen as a social drug that lowers inhibitions, allowing people to override the traditional methods of socializing. Those ideas, those inclinations and thoughts, which stir and culminate in the mind of a sober man, sometimes only find their release in the actions and words of an intoxicated man. So the saying goes, that a sober man's thoughts are a drunk man's words. In reality, many of those ideas which are repressed by sobriety, by the acceptance of socially-originating confines, of cultural prejudice and bias -- many of the sincere thoughts of a man, which must stay private and hidden because of society, are never fully recognized sometimes, except under the influence of a mind-altering substance, be it alcohol or other.
And though it may be true and accepted that alcohol can bring these positive effects to a user, it is a fact that is recognized mostly because of the acceptance of the drug alcohol. If someone were to make the same statement about heroin, or cocaine, or LSD, or PCP, or any other drug, one would have a very different response. When the thought of illicit chemicals and drugs is brought up, people automatically think of addiction, death, and crime. This may be true for irresponsible drug use, which can only be blamed on government propaganda's ability to miseducate the public. Only teaching sex abstinence to high school students results with students having unprotected sex, with unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease. If this is true, then doesn't it make sense, that only teaching "say no to drugs" would result in addiction, death, and crime?
Certain drugs, such as alcohol and Marijuana, manage to give the user a feeling of euphoria, pleasure, and happiness. In this state of inebriation, the user is capable of examining the elements of their life with a less-confined thinking process. Inhibitions are removed, thoughts are free. If used irresponsibly, these drugs can cause great harm, physically, mentally, emotionally. There is no doubt to this. However, few recognize their ability to help an individual cope with an emotionally stressful situation. If a person had problems repressing an experience that happened to them, they may walk with more confidence and security, once they confront it. Such drugs have been labeled as "soft drugs," but even with hard drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine, users have reported an altered perception of their life, that allows them to constructively reconsider aspects of their life. It seems as though these chemicals hold the user in an objective position, allowing them for the first time to really consider their life. Their emotional baggage, of social inhibitions, of political prejudices, of cultural bias, of television commercials meshed in with noise level of propaganda, all of that disappears, and they become truly free in a mental state, a living and breathing example of liberation. So the saying goes, that when a man says he needs 40 ounces of freedom, he is talking of alcohol.
Aside from these soft and hard drugs, each with their own varieties and categories and subcategories, there is a classification of drugs known as Psychedelics. Much like other drugs, they are accompanied by a euphoria, a pleasure, a sort of pleasing sensation, either a physical "body buzz" or a mental happiness. However, unlike other drugs, they have the ability to open life in ways that no other drug or experience are capable of. Alcohol, for instance, gives a positive emotional charge, while lowering inhibitions. Every drug seems to have that ability, of giving pleasure and destroying inhibitions. With a psychedelic drug, to say that it has the ability to open life in ways that nothing else is capable of is rather simple and straight forward. Some psychedelics include LSA, LSD, Salvia Divinorum, or Dextromethorphan. Under the influence of these chemicals, the pillars of reality come crashing down, the most basic and simple actions become infinitely complex. You close your eyes and you find yourself being dragged through the sets of every movie you absolutely loved and absolutely hated. You open your eyes. The clouds turn to swirls, the sky an entire ocean, and the leaves of the tree begin to burn -- and then you realize that you still haven't opened your eyes. Upon opening your eyes, the world moves around you with a surreal quality; everyone is flying, the television screen flickers with what seems to be a divine light, and bright neon lights with the colors of green and pink seem to be flashing randomly everywhere you look. Hallucinations.
There is something distinctly beautiful about crawling on your knees, trying to piece together the broken shards of your sanity.
And in this state, this psychedelically inebriated state, you think about your life. Maybe you realize that every moment you spend shopping is one less moment spent with your family. Maybe you realize that every cute girl that you pass by without saying a word is a missed opportunity of affection, friendship, and love. Maybe you realize the ultimate truth, that life isn't forever, and every time you're doing something you know is useless, you know is pointless, you're wasting away your existence. Because as we grow up, we are taught that game is a life, and the person to finish with the most material possessions is the winner. This understanding is obliterated into a thousand pieces, just about the same time you close your eyes again, still seeing the physical world, only now it is melting into a sticky pile of goo, and the neon purple sparkles keep grabbing your attention. You find yourself battling animated clay figures. Getting up out of your seat, you realize that your sense of balance has been destroyed, and you fall onto your bed, but you never stop falling. You find yourself falling at the slow rate of one foot per second, falling, falling, falling, further into a mine shaft, blanketed by darkness and the shiny slivers of metal that keep blinking. Trying to accomplish something in the physical world, you have to relearn everything. Walking becomes an absurdly difficult challenge, as the muscles in your body seem like they forgot everything that decades had taught them.
Hours of crawling on the floor as monsters come flying through the wall and your entire concept of reality is flushed down the toilet. Next day. Next morning. Your mind feels as though it were a sore muscle. You're trying to piece together just what happened, what was real, what wasn't. You slept for 12 hours, but it feels like it's already a year later. At the same time, you're not sure if you're sober or not. That sort of quasi-intoxication "I've only had one and a half beers." Then you see someone whom you haven't been honest with, someone you held your real feelings from. Not in an effort to exploit them, but in an effort to protect yourself. You see a person you've liked, whose words have intrigued you. And you tell them how you feel about them. It's not an unspecified joke/"I love you" -- the one boy/girl that, as a third grader, you vowed to yourself to approach and say this to. It's not a smooth come-on or approach, that would make the club scene. It's an honest explanation of feelings, and proposal of doing something about them. So the exchange occurs, a social violation, a freak of culture. Only fifteen minutes later did you realize how socially taboo it is to say exactly how you feel and do something about it. And you realize, as you analyze and overanalyze the events, that humiliation is not the first emotion to capture your mind, but liberation slowly springs roots in your heart.
Thus begins a long, beautiful journey with psychedelic drug use.
Drugs in Our Society
There is no doubt that strong opposition to drug law reform exists. Much of this opposition comes from conservatives, and less strongly from liberals. There are various attitudes brought towards mind-altering chemicals. Some want strict penalties for the possession or sale of these drugs, while others only want strict penalties for harder drugs. Another segment of the politically minded individuals want decriminalization of drugs, and instead of providing jails or prisons to users, provide them to treatment. On the other end of the political spectrum, there are those who want to make it completely legal to possess any of those substances which are now illegal today. In a way, I can say that I am among them. However, there are certain drugs which I think ought to be illegal for certain people. Those whose usage of a substance has brought them to criminality ought to be disallowed from using that substance. I've known individuals who have used Heroin on an irregular basis, and it acted as a "getting off" for them -- and in a way, it was no different than an alcoholic's nightly usage of liquor. To both of them, it is a means of acquiring happiness. It was a method of releasing pain, of releasing stress and tension.
It is always believed that usage of hard drugs will immediately lead people to lives of criminality and heartlessness. So those individuals, those kind, warm-hearted beings, who have offered the world their charity and inner beauty, must sleep with the idea, that what they truly are is considered a moral atrocity to society. It is a tragedy, and I imagine that the emotions that come to mind for these people, are very minor in difference, from those of oppressed blacks and oppressed women of past generations. An oppression that was sponsored by the government, as the War on Drugs is. It becomes an inherent prejudice of the population.
The question of choice comes up. Race and gender weren't a choice. But you can throw down that syringe or that pill or that pipe any day. It's probably true that many psychonauts (explorers of their own consciousness) are strong enough to kick any chemical habit that interferes with their life as they want it. Yet, it is something stronger than that. If threatened with death, a man could abstain from Homosexuality, even if it was his strongest desire -- so, also, it may be true with a man abstaining from Heterosexuality, even if it was his strongest desire. Threatened with death, many who have held dissenting religions opinions have accepted their fate to being burned alive. What is a choice? Given perfect liberty and perfect justice, a psychonaut will choose his chemical usage -- a Hindu will worship Ganesh -- a Homosexual will love those of the same sex. In a way, the psychonaut regards his chemical use not much unlike his religion or sexuality. It is a decision in his or her life that fills them with meaning, hope, and pleasure. To live in a society that believes that only the heartless and mindless engage in such pursuits, and when this idea infects close friends, family, and intimate lovers, it becomes a burden on the heart of the psychonaut... and, among his hopes, one becomes that one day, society will accept him for who he is and his loves for what they are.
Interestingly enough, the government finds it justified in supporting the idea of Gateway Drugs. Those who try Marijuana, for instance, may lead to hard drugs. If this is true, then 200 million Americans must secretly be heroin addicts or crack users, since two thirds of the population has used Marijuana. But evidence doesn't support this. On the contrary, instead of heroin use being around 66% in America, it's actually dangling to less than 1%. Perhaps the evidence which they are relying on, is that heroin users state that they first tried Marijuana. Yet, one must also consider that Marijuana is much more readily available, in a less intimidating form (more people would choose to smoke something long before they inject it). For instance, of the many celebrities that exist, many of them first had low paying jobs like the rest of the population... but then, would it be just for businesses to say, "Careful if you work here... you may just become a celebrity." The fact is, there is no connection between soft drug use and hard drug use that I can imagine. Soft drug use is a common practice among the people, as is demonstrable with alcohol and Marijuana. Empirically, it is also wrong. My first drug was Dextromethorphan, a psychedelic chemical, typically recognized as a between on soft and hard drugs.
Another may argue not against the legitimacy of using drugs, but they may claim that true spirituality is reached through sobriety. With all that is known about world cultures today, I cannot see how this can be believed by anyone. Usage of alcohol is an intrinsic part of Catholic doctrine. Ancient Mexicans used Lysergic Acid Amides (LSA) from Morning Glory seeds as a spiritual venture. Mushrooms that were known as "God's Flesh" were used by shamen from the same region. Shamen in Africa used the liberty bell flower to attain a deeper meaning of their god. Mescaline was used by American Natives as a spiritual enhancer. Buddhism is the exception, with a doctrine that bans usage of mind-altering chemicals. Yet, with that same religion, extensive fasting is a component of spirituality. And this is hardly surprising -- once the brain stops receiving it a steady stream of nutrients, it reaches a state similar to intoxication. The idea that fasting is religious can be found in countless religions: in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Whether through use of a chemical substance, or denying the mind the nutrients which are required for proper operation, religions that succeed are based on an activity which intoxicates the follower. I do not believe, however, that one must be intoxicated on a substance to release their spirituality -- it is a session, in which they liberate truths from a buried past, in which they realize principles of life that will be incorporated in everyday, sober life.
Ultimately, there are those who regard usage of drugs, to achieve spirituality and keep life pleasant, as a sort of handicap, a crutch. If there are individuals that can live without drugs, then those who use them must be handicapped, they argue. I admit it: if I did not regularly use intoxicating substances (particularly psychedelics, but all of them), I would be less strong, less hopeful, less determined, less of what I had always worked myself into becoming: independent, free, open. However, this is true of many things besides drugs. If I did not learn what freedom was, from having a family that I loved, I would be a lesser person today. Does this make family a crutch? If I did not learn the importance of truth, by reading the works of revolutionaries and reformers as well as philosophers, I would be a lesser person today. Does this make the wealth of knowledge accumulated by philosophers a crutch? Few would agree. Then, if usage of drugs helped me gained insight into life, allowed me a spirituality I did not know before, then is it still a crutch? Maybe to some, those whose thoughts are still covered in the darkness of prejudices.
The Liberty of Conscience
Among all liberties, every action, there is that freedom of conscience that shines. To think as we may, to introduce whatever substance to our bodies that we wish. A true liberty. But to those who live in a repressive state, as the United States remains, this liberty is another darkened figure in the halls of the history of our oppression. Kind and honest thoughts become a target of litigation, as the law becomes more and more powerful. As the public becomes blasted with propaganda, as its heroes become jailed in this political war on drugs, it seems like a curtain has been put over this liberty of conscience. So it is, and it becomes the duty, of every man and woman who loves freedom, to destroy these laws, to obliterate the anti-drug message. A suspension of the Bill of Rights takes place while the president urges one ideal: "this is protection." Every leader to assert that Civil Liberties stand in the way of freedom has made their claim on the idea that Martial Law is the equivalent of protection. So it is: the protection of the ruling class is the control of the common people.
Let us bask in the hope that chemical inebriation may give us, that perhaps a day will be in sight, where our misery will be a part of the past.