EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay is the second in a series on the Drug War. Part 1: Science

In the [first part of this argument][1], the proposal was made that medicine should be given all latitude to study medical issues, drug addiction being one. It posited that with a replication crisis in our methods of studying all social issues, maybe the true experts on the disease of addiction, the junkies themselves, should be consulted as to the best way to mitigate the damage. We can find their frank testimony all over the internet. Science should look into integrating this tool the way the information revolution has (Amazon could help them with it).

Even flawed studies would be better than a prohibition on study itself, which is the DEA’s position with Category One drugs (in England, even heroin is legal, when administered under a doctor’s supervision).

The scientific study of drug abuse in this country is given lie by the history of drug prohibition, which was never “on the level,” but instead was always guided by hateful political agendas and entrepreneurial regulatory pursuits. Pay particular attention to how the FDA literally overrode the supervising judge’s findings that XTC should be a Category 3 drug (useful under a doctor’s supervision). So, the story might as well be: Government bureaucracy trumps the rule of law.

No other country does this, with the utterly predictable result of unprecedented incarceration. And the international war on drugs was bent around America’s unique post-war power, and uniquely punitive approach, which pinched off more scientific, and medical, alternatives. Meanwhile, Portugal and Switzerland point the way forward to an approach that is both more humane and more effective (the boons of Liberalism, the classic sort, tend to work that way).

Here are more drugs in need of re-evaluation. This time, minus the tautology of required study, with study being simultaneously illegal:

Kratom: the pattern playing out before our eyes is historically instructive: users are “otherized,” traditional fears of the “other” community are overlaid onto kratom abuse, such as it is. The drug is misunderstood because it’s not being used by lawmakers or their circle. Had they used it and thus found it mostly benign, laws against it would never have been initiated. Prohibitions are now an accepted American deep-tendon reflex, acclimated as we are from a half century of the War on Drugs.

Meanwhile, the issue is not being studied in anything like an objective way. To spare the reader the time of following the link, very few samples of kratom have ever been found on autopsy of victims. We would have found the same had the pathologist been looking at gastric contents and concluding Pepsi was implicated in the death. Prohibitionists must always reckon with the observer effect, which holds that the study of any phenomenon changes its nature. If government authority says “find me evidence of kratom danger,” the danger will be found. For this approach to stand, we must ignore that a user will probably not be a nun, meaning that this sort of person should be more disposed to risky behavior. We could probably correlate kratom, unknown causes of death, and tattoos just as easily.

The infrastructure for study of a brand new thing is small compared to the leviathan of media and vested interests of the status quo, further muddying the waters of an objective study into its danger (which is not the same as saying there are none). The drug seems to have uses in combating opioid addiction, but there is little interest from the status quo in allowing the finding out of how.

Bath Salts (that make one eat someone’s face): this cannibal terror is entirely a media spectacle centered around one ER physician’s unfortunate comments to our Twister spinning media. The episode is included here for its primer on the nexus between greedy journalism and greedy politics. There are no such things as “Mr. Hyde” drugs that reorient a person’s basic personality, transforming civilized Christian into face-eating cannibal, no matter that the headline writes itself. And if there were, the Soviets or the CIA would have found them during the life and death struggle that was the Cold War.

Illegal drugs are often used by the mentally ill, which is conflating them with causing mental illness (though some drugs can induce temporary psychosis in “normal” brains). In my twenty plus years in emergency medicine, I’ve yet to encounter a clinician who cannot make this distinction, which is precisely the point: clinicians can make the distinctions necessary to understand these problems, and craft treatments, based on the scientific method of blind trials.

Jenkum: Ok, a cheap laugh, I’ll grant. Still, this episode is useful to illustrate Mark Twain’s maxim: “Lies can fly halfway around the world before the truth puts its shoes on.” This was a variation of a headline trope which has put a lot of Porsches in the garages of media owners: “the kids these days are getting high on (fill in the blank)”.

A symbiotic ecosystem exists between the raisers of a menace (the media), and protectors from the menace (the government), and together this makes a strong “Twainian” headwind that accurate knowledge must tack against.

Marijuana: Fiorello LaGuardia, in an exception to the rule that politicians rarely conduct any honest investigation without an eye towards increase of their power, or the feeding of special interest support, refused to take the Government’s bleatings on the menace of marijuana at face value, and commissioned an independent medical study, by medical people, that concluded the same thing we now know, after nigh three-quarters of a century of mass incarceration: the problem of marijuana abuse, where it can be abused, is not much of a problem.

America must face the wreckage of vast numbers of Americans deprived of their God-given freedom over an obstinate clinging to power by the Government of the Free. Yes, the policy is winding down, but like casualties in the Vietnam war, someone will be the last to be jailed for nothing, and it shouldn’t have happened to anyone. But, most importantly, the mechanisms that caused the disaster are still empowered the same way. The likelihood of that happening, with government now controlling huge amounts of our healthcare apparatus, seem less likely, rather than more.

MDMA: In another rebuke to centralized, top-down, unchallengeable-expertise notions, we see cases of PTSD in our veterans, inflicted in war, afflicted on their return by the flip-side arrogance that begat our Middle East wars, mismanaged by their VA healthcare experts, turn to MDMA for relief. Granted, medical science cannot accept such individual empiricism at face value. But, equally, medical science shouldn’t have to accept the “thou shalt not study” incantations of the DEA. Surely, if we can trust a man to carry a medium machine gun in battle and hold the lives of his mates in his trigger finger, we can trust him (sometimes her) to manage their own mental health, and not infantilize them when they become civilian. Are they deserving of life-and-death, shoot-or-not-shoot-in-a-split-second extraordinary trust only when it suits us? Extraordinary trust should be repaid with extraordinary latitude.

LSD: Timothy Leary, jokester, prankster, troll-extraordinaire, it must be remembered, was a brilliant Harvard trained psychiatrist. He maintained that LSD therapy would revolutionize mental health care. Again, individual empiricism is not medicine, but fields of research MAPS are opening as to the benefits of LSD therapy in treating mental illness. The drug also seems to be highly useful in palliative care for the terminally ill. It should be remembered: benzodiazepines are highly effective in “breaking” bad LSD trips gone wrong. Of course, this presupposes a clinician, something not available to LSD users “in the wild,” with the drug remaining Category 1.

The nature of LSD should invite its own clinical category: people experiment with the drug as a form of self-discovery. Many trippers, like Steve Jobs, point to it as an essential gate of imagination that opened for them.

Not only do we have an epidemic in opioid overdoses, we also have one in suicide. Hallucinogens might have a role in mitigating this. Certainly, a great many ancient cultures that use them as part of understanding world would agree that modern man needs a center of transcending belief, and in my view, it a long-standing violation of the First Amendment to tell them they cannot (as if we’ve not hurt Natives enough).

Historically, politics has run over science often. Indeed, a larger discussion would be the fact that Government incantations of being rooted in objective science, with its scientifically marching progress, with the goal of guiding and improving on the basic nature of man, has been the vector for the worst political disease in man’s extremely diseased history of governance. I refer to the hundred million souls burnt up on the Communists’ abattoir, of course. But this would be seem a louder clarion call for science to not be allowed to be booted and saddled by Government.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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