The War on Drugs, and indeed the attitude towards Drugs, is a new development
After millennia of consciousness altering, culminating in the 60’s counter-culture free-loving itself to death, Governments got high on drugs. Since the 1970’s governments across the globe actively prohibited experimentation with consciousness-altering substances, legislating harshly for use and sale. Cannabis, LSD and MDMA users have all suffered at the hands of conservative and liberal governments alike.
For years we’ve heard the dramatic negatives of ‘recreational’ drugs like those mentioned above. But, as illegal drug use continues and new legislation makes more drug use illegal, perhaps it’s time for a different angle. Despite the conventional wisdom, it’s important to recognise that freedom without freedom of consciousness is not real freedom.
A brief history of drugs and social change
Historically, the counter-culture movements of Post-War western societies were a testament to the recognition of freedom of the mind as integral to total freedom. Cannabis started the psychoactive ball rolling in the subcultures after WWII, LSD furthered this hugely with MDMA bringing up the rear 30 years on. The Acid-drenched Hippy Movement of the 1960’s was framed by Vietnam, the assassinations of JFK & MLK and the civil rights movement. It was a tumultuous time where Politics cast a long shadow over western culture. Vietnam resembled the type of Imperialism the US had fought against in it’s conception. Progressive politics was threatened with death and people were yearning to live in peace, regardless of race. The drug-enhanced Hippies shifted many cultural norms, the echoes of which still resound even today. The vast alteration in world-views was caused, in part, by psychoactive substances. Where freedom and liberty were once the highest values in western democracies, power grabs from the Soviet regimes pressurised them into addictive, imperialist behaviours. To the drug-using Hippies it was Love, Peace and Understanding that were their highest values. They were Utopianists living in increasingly Dystopian times. But fear and jealousy took hold of Public Opinion, lubricated by Governmental bodies.
Acid has often been touted as one of the most dangerous drugs, causing people to jump from the roof or stab a loved one in the midst of a bad trip. Cannabis was linked to schizophrenia for a long time. Neither drug was particularly helped by the concentration of the users on the recreational benefits. Risky behaviour for pleasure is rarely seen kindly and the more profound aspects of the drugs were lost under pressure from the state to criminalise the substances and their users. Now drug users are seen as lazy and selfish, the drugs as toxic, harmful and addictive, This is, of course, whilst taxable drugs like Tobacco and Alcohol have wrecked millions of lives with little state intervention. The illicit drugs became taboo and like any taboo were criminalised, forced underground and unregulated.
Fast forward 3 decades and a new drug emerges, with a new subculture. Mass groups of people who all feel lovely, loving and want to dance, and MDMA. The summer of love had re-emerged with more consciousness shifting habits. Again, the political atmosphere was tense, divisional and frightening. Thatcherism was at it’s height, inequality was rampant and many young men were sent to the Falklands to die over a land dispute. Those who didn’t want to be divided, went to raves, took MDMA, danced and loved everyone there. Their brains were reacting naturally to the chemicals they had ingested, re-framing how they viewed the world and seeing the possibility of a beat-driven Utopia. The same thing happened. MDMA was crushed under fear, users patronised, outdoor parties criminalised and positives outside of ‘recreation’ silenced. It was criminalised, pushed underground and unregulated. But, those who have taken these drugs know their effects and pushed against the views of the State.
Drugs are medicine
Eventually, the Labour government buckled and got David Nutt, a neuropharmapsychologist, to do research into the harm-addictiveness of different drugs. It said what users had been saying for years, that MDMA, LSD and Cannabis were low on the scale, Alcohol and Tobacco very high. He was sacked from this job, as it flew in the face of conventional, official, wisdom. Now, LSD and MDMA are being tested for assisting with any number of psychological issues including PTSD, Anxiety and Addiction. Issues that were often thrown at the drugs as risks. Cannabis is widely accepted as medicinal, the US National Institute on Drug Abuse formally recognising it’s ability to kill cancer cells. This is why many states have completely legalised and regulated. Portugal decriminalised all drugs and saw a significant drop in drug-related issues. Colorado pays for public services with weed money. It’s a cash crop, a weed that grows anywhere, for god’s sake.
However, as much these countries and states recognise the boons of regulation, decriminalisaion and pragmatism, ours has pushed further into the eternal war on drugs. Now ‘Legal Highs’ are illegal, which are a direct result of the static attitude towards psychoactive substances from the political class. Nothing this War has achieved has treated the root causes of drug abuse, addiction and drug-related crime. If anything, it’s made it all much worse.
The War on Drugs = war on freedom?
Because the war on drugs isn’t based on science, or pragmatism, it is instead completely ideological. Consciousness altering drugs force the brain to process information differently and it’s pretty much a total reset. This would include processing the nature of governance, power and personal agency very differently. If the counter-culture, drug-friendly movements of the 1960’s and late 80’s taught us anything, it’s that. They didn’t demand progression, they acted as if they’d already achieved it.
Revolution is a frame of mind and drugs like Cannabis, LSD and MDMA are tools to access that. Their prohibition is innately political & ideological, the drugs are apolitical and anti-ideological.
They allow freedom of consciousness, and that’s dangerous to power structures.