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Thursday, October 11, 2012

America's Painful War on Drugs

A Trip Down Malady Lane

The innate desire and almost biological necessity to manipulate our perceptions has been part of the evolving DNA of the human species for thousands of generations. Ethnobotanist and philosopher Terence Mckenna postulated that ingesting magic mushrooms was the quantum leap which afforded proto-humans to develop a personal sense of cosmos. This event according to McKenna reacted with our brain chemistry thereby creating an awareness of the supernatural: religion.

Drugs, either occurring naturally (e.g. psilocybin mushrooms, san pedro cactus, bufo alvarius toad) or rudimentarily fermented like banana beer or mede have played an integral and important role in directing human history. All living creatures, even the curiously odd coral like organisms which thrive on the ocean floor near toxic volcanic vents, have evolved specific cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors, simply put, are the genetic protein receptors which process cannabinoids that are generated in the body or introduced into the body. All living creatures, thusly, are predetermined and equipped to utilize cannabinoids. In other words, the grand design of evolution has included the effective use of, among others, marijuana.

However, a socially constructed taboo has been invoked to delineate which chemicals are accepted for use to alter our perceptions and which ones are labeled profane. The now empirically bankrupt supposition that drugs inexorably form a stepping stone path to harder drugs and full blown addiction; still holds sway over the acceptance and accessibility of perception altering drugs.

This doesn't mean to discount that there are large numbers of people who are either socially or genetically susceptible to the disease of addiction. Addiction is a serious clinical disease and not a crime and should be treated as such. The war on drugs has failed miserably and should be re-evaluated and recalibrated in order to handle the ailment as a disease and not a crime. The obscene growth of our penal system as illustrated by the amount of incarcerated diseased addicts is morally and ethically grotesque. Would we consider throwing other diseased and sick people behind bars with no plan for executing a rehabilitation process? A succinct and apropos saying reveals the true ideology motivating the war on drugs; “If you can't be part of the solution, then there's a lot of money to be made prolonging the problem.” The clear indicator which gives this saying currency is the fact that the government on state and local levels have privatized many of the jails and detention centers. It was remarked in the media recently that decriminalizing marijuana would be catastrophic to the workers employed by these job creators which run the privatized jails. This is a blatantly false argument at best and at worst an inhumane, psychopathic and amoral reasoning.

The Western world has ipso facto determined that alcohol is the only legal drug we can buy and use recreationally and medicinally without a jumping through legal hoops like acquiring a medical prescription. Why? The ubiquitous emergence of The “pill mills” and pain clinics are rife with abuse and have aided in skewing our collective moral stance on perceiving the world differently. We have created a frankenstein of cultural and social atrophy. There are now opiate addicts who are hooked on Oxycontin and are putting a significant burden on the health care system as well as the social and cultural life of modern western society.

The myopic western position on drugs is erroneously founded on the believe that there is an inherent seedy quality of drugs which hauls the user into a dysfunctional quagmire. However, if we take the drug methamphetamine as an example then that theory begins to fray and unravel like a cheap Persian rug.

Speed has played a central role in politics, literature and science during the 20th century helping to weave our shared culture fabric. Here are 5 people who contributed to the history of the modern world through Methamphetamine.

Lazar Edeleanu, a Jewish Romanian chemist (1861-1941), first synthesized amphetamine in 1887 at Universität Berlin. Originally it was given the name phenylisopropylamine. The synthetic was buried in scientific archives and more or less forgotten for the next 40 years. He was bestowed the title of Doctor in Chemistry following the publication of his thesis "On the Derivatives of Fatty Phenylmethacrylic and Phenylisobutyric Acids" (German title: "Ueber einige Derivate der Phenylmethacrylsäure und der Phenylisobuttersäure"). The thesis described phenylisopropylamine, a stimulant which effects the nervous system, better known as amphetamine or benzedrine.

Theodor Gilbert Morell (July 22, 1886 – May 26, 1948) was Hitler's personal physician. Morell was a General Practitioner in Germany who was notorious for utilizing unorthodox methods to treat illnesses, most notably, syphilis. Initially Morell was employed by Hitler to prophylactically ward off syphilis, which Hitler linked to the Jews. It's assumed that when Hitler had difficulties with grogginess and disorientation in the morning, Morell would inject him with a cocktail of water and an unspecified substance he emptied from gold-foiled packets. The secret substance, which Morell called "Vitamultin", would apparently refresh and invigorate Hitler. Heinrich Himmler, the Commanding Officer of the SS, clandestinely had one of these gold-foil packets analyzed in a laboratory. The conclusion was that it was found to contain Methamphetamine. A week before Hitler suicide in April 1945 he dismissed Morell. As of April of 1945 Morell was injecting Hitler with Methamphetamine everyday. The exact amount of the daily injections is lost to history. Morell's nickname throughout Germany at the time was Der Reichsspritzenmeister (The Injection Master of the Third Reich) and was purportedly given to him by Hermann Göring.

Max Jacobson has been deemed the original Dr. Feelgood. He was born in Germany and studied to become a physician. Jacobson was famous/infamous for his "miracle tissue regenerator" shots which were a concoction of amphetamines, vitamins, painkillers, and human placenta. John F. Kennedy was first treated by Jacobson in September 1960, preceding the1960 presidential election debates. It is a public secret that Kennedy suffered from chronic back pain. During the Vienna Summit in 1961 Jacobson injected Kennedy with his potpourri of chemicals to help reduce Kennedy's worsening chronic back pain. As of May 1962, it's reported that Max Jacobson had visited the White House a total of 34 times in order to treat the President.

Philip K Dick during his most prolific and arguably most thematically interesting period was known to lock himself away for 2 weeks straight on an amphetamine induced writing frenzy. He then emerged having written 2 complete novels. In an interview conducted by Uwe Anton & Werner Fuchs and transcribed by Frank C. Bertrand into English [from: SF EYE, #14, Spring 1996, pp. 37-46] Dick openly confessed to the necessity of using to amphetamines in order to be productive; “Ah, well, my writing falls into two degrees, the writing done under the influence of drugs and the writing I've done when I'm not under the influence of drugs. But when I'm not under the influence of drugs I write about drugs. I took amphetamines for years in order to get energy to write. I had to write so much in order to make a living because our pay rates were so low. In five years I wrote sixteen novels, which is incredible. I mean, nobody, I don't think anybody's ever done it before. And without amphetamines I couldn't have written that much. But as soon as I began to earn enough money so that I didn't have to write so many books, I stopped taking amphetamines”. According to a 1975 interview in Rolling Stone Magazine, Dick wrote all of his books published before 1970 while on amphetamine. On his own admission of sobriety during the writing process, 1977 marked the publication his book A Scanner Darkly about his experiences and hallucinations while on amphetamines.

Paul Erdős was a hungarian born and naturalized american who fled Europe before WW2 because of the mounting anti-semitism. He was a prolific scientist who published more scholarly papers than any other mathematician in history. Although a brilliant scholar he was also notorious for his eccentric behavior. He accepted his first American position as a scholarship holder at Princeton University in 1938. Close to this time he began to indulge in wanderlust and started traveling from campus to campus. This was a habit which continued until his death in 1996. Somewhere around 1971 Erdős began using methamphetamine. His friends were concerned and alarmed at his increasing dependance on methamphetamine; betting him he couldn't quit for a month. Erdős wa the bet but lamented to his friends that the month without the aid of methamphetamine critically delayed his research.

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