Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

 Warring on the Afflicted

by Claude Tower, Prisoner of War in America


As a veteran of eight years recovery from chemical dependence, I speak as something of an expert on drug use, abuse and addiction. If a person were to ask an auditorium full of 13 year olds, "Who wants to be an alcoholic? Who wants to be an addict?" They wouldn't get any raised hands. People don't choose to become enmeshed in dependencies. I didn't, no one does. People use chemicals to treat their psychic and spiritual pain. This seems to work at first, and the subtle deepening involvement with one's chosen anesthetic ensues.

This dependency, if it involves alcohol, is recognized as a disease in most jurisdictions. Localities which arrest and jail citizens for simple drunkenness have become the exception in the United States. The helping professions - medical, psychological and spiritual - have led the change in perception of the alcoholic from self-indulgent, irresponsible and immoral to a suffering victim of a physical, mental and spiritual disorder. Alcoholics are routinely referred to treatment programs by the courts, with jail time reserved for the most intractable cases of public danger, such as repeat drunk drivers.

In the case of all other psychoactive substances "any use is abuse," and the abuser is a criminal. Yet the mechanism of true abuse, as opposed to harmless social or recreational enjoyment, is identical whatever the drug (and alcohol is a drug-a strong drug with a high abuse potential). So the War on Drugs is not a war on substances, as the title implies, but a war on afflicted people: the chemically dependant. Try to imagine a war on epileptics. There is no moral difference. Just as moderate alcohol use is an appropriate element of the good life for those who choose it, so is the ingestion of other psychoactive substances in the same context. The person who becomes a danger through the use of any drug will not respond to any amount of punishment. The old drunks who had been arrested 400 or 500 times are perfect examples. Yet when approached by other, recovered alcoholics, many of them attained sobriety.

Another aspect of the drug situation is the modern business of "psychopharmacology". It seems it is appropriate, after all, to treat everything from anxiety and insomnia to schizophrenia itself with psychoactive substances, as long as they are made by a registered, tax-paying corporation. We who have managed to mount recoveries from our dependencies/addictions would expect this approach to fail. And it has. Few patients, if any, are cured. The most violent manifestations of mental illness can be controlled, but with what long term consequences, no one knows. The most commonly used drugs offer a chilling assessment. Rhenothiazines, prescribed for schizophrenics, make the fundamental disorder worse. Tricyclic antidepressants increase the rate of mood cycling, leading to long term increases in the numbers of relapsing psychopathologic episodes, and so on. Many of the "psychopharms" (or "farms" on the street), are abused, too, with patients traipsing a circuit of psychiatrists, renewing prescriptions in perpetuity, selling the surplus to cover their costs and deepening their dependencies. Only lithium has had any real medical success, and only for some disorders, such as manic-depression. The use of the legally sanctioned medical-corporate pharmacopeia to treat diseases of the spirit is little more controlled, no more successful and no more legitimate than the illegal "cures" people attempt in treating themselves, and a lot more dangerous. Deaths from use/misuse of legal drugs outweigh those attributed to street drugs fifteen to one. So the vast bulk of drug abuse is completely ignored by the drug warriors.

If the destruction of the lives of the targets of the drug war-who are mostly afflicted, not evil people-were all that was lost, it would be bad enough to cancel the whole enterprise. But our democracy itself is becoming a casualty. The guarantees and protections of all citizens are no longer being eroded, but swept away by the assault on the Constitution occasioned by the drug war. Should the citizenry at large ever feel the need for redress from a government controlled by Big Greed, they will soon have no avenue of recourse.

The main accomplishments of prohibition are never the abolishment of intoxicants-people want to get high, and they are going to get high. They are the enrichment of criminals and the pursuant corruption of the legal institutions on which the public relies for protection from those criminals. One need only look at Mexico to see our future if the present policy remains entrenched. There are societies which have largely repressed the use of at least certain intoxicants: Saudi Arabia and China come prominently to mind. We have to ask if we would trade our democracy for life in either one of them in order to be drug free, for that is our ultimate choice.

The issue of choice seems to be holding its own on women's issues. If we whose freedom of recreational choice is being assaulted will put half an effort into defending it as they have, we can do as well. I don't recommend anyone use any drug, because the course the use may take is always uncertain, but America has allowed her grownups to make their own decisions for hundreds of years and on the whole she has done all right.

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact