Like almost everyone else in America, John Halpern looks at the opium wars of the 19th century and draws two erroneous conclusions. I discuss and refute those two conclusions below.
1) Opium is a drug from hell.
Why do we think that opium is the drug from hell? Why? Because we never hear from the thousands of human beings who have used opium responsibly and to good effect. How many westerners know that Benjamin Franklin used opium? How many westerners know or care that opium had a great productive influence on writers like De Quincey, Poe and Lovecraft? How many westerners know that opium has been found to cure the common cold by many users?
This is the drug warrior strategy, by the way, to never admit to or point out any positive uses of Mother Nature's psychoactive drugs, to constantly highlight the negative, thereby leaving the impression that these substances truly are evil incarnate. If these people focused their polemics on driving, we would come to feel that driving only led to accidents and should therefore be outlawed. Unfortunately, the worst villain in this story is the news media. Cowed as they are by the DEA and public hysteria, they studiously avoid reporting positive news about substance use, thereby giving the impression, through selective negative reporting, that illegal substance use is always substance abuse.
Here's a headline you'll never see: "'Responsible opium use helps me write creatively and prolifically!'"
While it's true that opium can become addictive if used on a daily basis, this is a property of opium that no westerner has a right to complain about. As I type this, 1 in 4 American women are addicted to modern anti-depressants -- 1 in 4. Besides, opium addiction can be "kicked" in a week whereas certain modern anti-depressants like Effexor CAN NEVER BE STOPPED according to a recent study by the NIH itself, which reports a 95% recidivism rate for those who try.
2) We should therefore make opium illegal.
The lesson of the opium war is not that natural substances should be illegal. Opium itself never injured anyone in the 19th century. It was the PROFIT MOTIVE that made opium a bad thing. It was the PROFIT MOTIVE that flooded the market and brought forward only the most potent productions of the poppy plants. It was the same PROFIT MOTIVE that allows today's Big Pharma to get away scot-free with addicting an entire nation.
But writers like Halpern ignore this. Instead of blaming exploitative capitalism, they make a scapegoat out of the substances themselves. The real lesson of the opium war, however, is that the PROFIT MOTIVE should have no role when it comes to the sale of psychoactive substances, not because the substances are evil incarnate, but because the PROFIT MOTIVE encourages irresponsible and uninformed use of such substances.
Indeed, the whole opioid crisis today exists because of the PROFIT MOTIVE, not because poppy plants are the spawn of the devil, as the superstitious drug warrior prefers to believe -- probably because they can't bring themselves to criticize capitalism, and so Mother Nature's plants become convenient scapegoats.
Language counts because it is laden with stealth assumptions. When we say "Opium War," we superstitiously associate the evils of the conflict in question with a plant, turning Mother Nature into a scapegoat for human evil and giving a free pass to the phenomenon of unbridled and militaristic capitalism, which is really the villain of the piece.
There was no drug problem in Ancient Egypt. There was no drug problem in Ancient Greece. There was no drug problem in Ancient Persia. There was no drug problem in Ancient Rome. There was no drug problem in the Mongol Kingdom. There was no drug problem in the Viking Era.
Why? Because until 1914, people were judged by how they behaved, not by what substances they had in their digestive system.
The Drug War is America's unique, anti-scientific way of looking at the world. It is a war that causes all of the problems that it purports to fix: above all, it brings "drugs" front and center in the minds of the irresponsible, encouraging them to explore and use substances that they might have never even heard of without the peurile and anti-scientific plant demonization of drug war zealots.
Get an exciting job ruining the lives of your fellow Americans. Listen to this fun audio clip to find out how!
Help America enforce Christian Science Sharia. Help nail the anti-patriotic scumbags who insist on using mother nature's plant medicines of which politicians disapprove. Great benefits. Must pass a squeaky clean drug test, proving that you have emphatically renounced all of mother nature's godsend plant medicines.
Can't pass a urine test? Order a vintage bottle of Granny's Weewee today, guaranteed squeaky clean. We use only the finest urine from teetotaling grandmothers, who gave up their right to mother nature's psychoactive plant medicines many decades ago. Why not splurge and buy the 1945 vintage? You don't want to pass up a job at Taco Bell because you were stingy! This early vintage has a great down-home bouquet and will remind the lab technicians of the good old days of Grandma and those great pies that she used to bake (or whatever).
End the War on Drugs
by Christian Science Heretics
Mine by Birth
by Thomas Jefferson and the Poppies
Waxing Wroth (about America's Drug War)
by God and His Minions
Urine testers needed to ruin American lives
Your Call is Impotent to Us
Movie Review of Running With the Devil 2019
Drug War Jeopardy
Drug War Virus Update
DEA help line
Manager's note: All of our comedians have undergone drug testing. None of them have been found to be using anything but the most mind-enhancing and therapeutic plants in Mother Nature's psychoactive pharmacy.
A Drug Warrior in our Midst
Comedian Adderall Zoloft Riffs on the Drug War
Drug War Copaganda
The DEA: Poisoning Americans since 1973
The Joy of Drug Testing
Dear Reddit readers: I do not respond to Reddit messages for at least three reasons:
Some of them are mean-spirited nonsense.
Some of them are non-mean-spirited but nonsense all the same.
Some of them are simply wrong-headed but inspire me to write fully reasoned comebacks, for which I simply don't have time.
If you really want to reach me, however, my name and email address can be found in a reasonably intuitive location on this site, so feel free to contact me there. I'll assume that anyone who takes the time to do so will have something meaningful to say ;)
Bone up on slam-dunk arguments against the drug war, starting with the fact that it was a violation of natural law to outlaw plant medicine in the first place. Check out
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for fun ways to learn more about the manifold injustice of the status quo, including many knock-down arguments never made before. Why? Because even the majority of drug-war opponents have been bamboozled by one or more of the absurd assumptions upon which that war is premised. See through the haze. Read on. Listen on. And Learn how tryants and worrywarts have despoiled American freedom, thereby killing millions around the world, totally unnecessarily, ever since the fateful day in 1914 when ignorant America first criminalized a mere plant -- and insisted that the rest of the world follow suit or else -- an act of colonialist folly unrivaled since the day of the genocidal Conquistadors.