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The Ecstasy and Agony of Getting Smart About Drug Use

Dumb people and crisis-obsessed media give drugs a bad reputation — the real story is more positive

Click here to read this story on Medium.com

Created in Midjourney

Sanjay Does Drugs

The first time I tried a drug recreationally was eleven years ago, on a crowded dance floor in Las Vegas. 

The next morning I woke up with no memory of anything that had happened after I took the pill. I was also sick and literally had to crawl from my hotel room to a conference room where my company was having its annual strategy meeting. 

Fortunately, I was able to quickly get hooked up to an IV from Hangover Heaven for an advertised 45 minute recovery period. My assistant, Emily, walked into the conference room as I was telling the story to my executive team of how an attractive stranger had suggested I try a pill. 

Emily listened for a bit, and when it became obvious there were going to be no redeeming elements to the story, she asked me, “What the hell were you thinking?” 

“It was on my bucket list to try ecstasy!” I cried in my defence, showing her a list on my iPhone.

She grabbed my phone and scrolled down to where I had clearly written:

Try ecstasy in a controlled environment 

Emily looked up, hit my arm and scolded, “how was the dance floor of a nightclub, with a bunch of strangers, a controlled environment? We all thought you’d gone to bed when we couldn’t find you.”

Still working on finding a functioning Zeppelin — screenshot

That was my first exposure to this truth: Drugs are for smart people. 

When I say drugs I mean all of them — caffeine, alcohol, Ozempic, Vyvanse, shrooms, DMT, MDMA, cannabis, cigarettes, protein supplements, steroids, and sugar in all its terror-inducing forms. 

At their core, drugs for recreation and drugs for self-improvement all have effects on your mood, your energy, your focus, your memory, your sleep cycle and your overall enjoyment and experience of life. 

Regular workouts increase dopamine. So does doom-scrolling instagram. So does cocaine. Which is best and which is worst? Which one is destroying our social fabric? The answer isn’t that simple, and it’s not the same for everyone.

Just remember this. Drugs are for smart people. I accepted a drug from a stranger in an uncontrolled environment. That was dumb. It also wasn’t ecstasy, it was GHB — I had been roofied.

Drugs are for smart people

I read this phrase for the first time on the front page of a dark web site devoted to selling all kinds of things that Nancy Reagan told me would fry my brain. 

I’ve tried a lot of drugs since then and my brain is still intact, so I know that she lied, because if what you believe doesn’t have predictive value, then you should stop believing it. Beliefs are to be tested against reality and adjusted as required, not clung to blindly.

The key to effective use of any drug is knowledge. Smart people know the risks and benefits of each drug. Smart people know the appropriate dosage. When someone suggests doing mushrooms, smart people don’t take ‘a handful’. Smart people don’t take drugs alone unless they have plenty of experience.

Medical professionals and Google searches are great for information on commercial for-profit drugs. For anything less commercial, from supplements to herbal remedies to scheduled recreational drugs, you’ll get better information by searching Reddit, or from a knowledgeable friend who has experience.

Addiction is Caused by Trauma, Not Drugs

People who are addicted to drugs are likely to be addicted to all sorts of things because they’re trying to numb some pain within themselves and drugs are great at numbing pain. 

The solution isn’t in taking away the drugs, it is in effective therapy like CBT, Compassionate Inquiry, or Internal Family Systems, often in combination with some form of accelerant like psychedelics and with a knowledgeable guide or therapist.

See link at end for my article on Internal Family Systems therapy. No drug or therapeutic technique will work for everyone. Experiment safely.

There is no drug that will make you an addict on a single hit. There is no robust evidence of a chemical or genetic basis for addiction. There’s no such thing as an addictive personality. There is only a person in pain.

It’s not that drugs don’t work and that’s why you have addicts. It’s that they work all too well, but they’re only covering up the real problem. If you know someone who suffers from addiction, the best thing you can do is talk to them, get them into therapy, change their life situation. They’ll stop taking the drugs on their own.

People say yes, but what about heroin? Heroin is different. 

No, it’s not. 

See the link at the end of this article on what happened when thousands of heroin addicts came home from the Vietnam war. 

Don’t Be a Drug Elitist

Cannabis makes me ill, that doesn’t mean I should go around telling people cannabis is terrible. Every drug affects everyone differently. 

Just because you like cannabis doesn’t mean everyone will benefit from cannabis. And just because you hate cigarettes, doesn’t mean everyone who smokes cigarettes is a fool.

If a drug has a benefit for some people, and they use it responsibly, then why prohibit it? Dr. Carl Hart does a great job of describing the phenomenon of drug elitism in his book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups which I highly recommend if you have an open mind and want to learn how you’ve been lied to in the War on Drugs. 

Here’s the short version. Recreational drugs are illegal because they’re an excuse to put people in jail. Specifically, people who can’t afford a good lawyer. Poor people. Black people. 

A friend of mine was found with cocaine in a Las Vegas nightclub. Does he now have a felony record? Is he banned from crossing the border? Hell no, he’s rich. He hired a good lawyer. Pity a poor black 19-year-old in the same situation. He’d still be in jail 11 years later.

See link at end for an admission from a Nixon staffer that the purpose of the war on drugs was to put black people and Vietnam war-protestors in jail. 

The Problem Isn’t the Drugs

Every tale of a disastrous drug experience begins with the question, “How much did you take?” and the answer, “I don’t know.” Bad drug trips come from a lack of knowledge and are completely preventable.

The problem is that the media only reports when a drug user shows up in the emergency room or takes a whole bunch of drugs and tries to fly a plane, not on the millions of people who use both legal and illegal drugs every day to positive effect without ruining their own or anybody else’s life.

I had a friend once who was terrified of using an ATM because she worked in a bank and saw daily dozens of cards that had been eaten by ATMs. I get it. If all you see is the down side, you’d ignore the millions of daily successful transactions. 

During COVID there was an irrational response from many people of trying to avoid any and all risk. If only each article was accompanied by a link to a basic course on probability and statistics. But no, that would have calmed people down instead of working them up, exactly the opposite of what for-profit media platforms do all day every day. 

Base your opinions and behaviour on complete knowledge. Do research. Do not trust any single source, not even me.

Drugs are Getting a Better Reputation

Fortunately, we’re entering a fantastic era of being able to treat the trauma in people’s lives that lead to problems like drug addiction. The number one target of psychedelic-assisted therapy is PTSD, often in combat veterans, but even more often resulting from childhood adverse events. 

After several successful trials, the FDA is due to approve the medical use of MDMA, (also known as Ecstasy or Molly) for the treatment of PTSD, as early as the end of this year. The treatment works in part by allowing people to revisit their original trauma with a therapist while buoyed and supported by the positive emotions created by MDMA. 

Treating trauma will treat all sorts of behavioural issues. It won’t be simple, it won’t be easy, but it’s a start, and it’s better than overmedicating a planet with opiates, adderall, and ozempic. All of which are legal medicines with as much or more harm potential than psychedelics, but with powerful corporate lobbies to keep them legal. 

All drugs have beneficial uses for some segment of the population. All drugs are harmful if used without adequate knowledge and care. Don’t be a drug elitist, saying that your favourite drug is the only one that should be legal.

The future of drugs in our society will, I hope, be with complete safety and foreknowledge. Want increased focus for an exam? Want to lose weight? Want to get over your fear of flying? There’s a drug combination for that. No stigma. No overdoses. 

Seek fun and understanding, not oblivion and avoidance — Created using Midjourney

When I tried recreational drugs, I didn’t do my research first. I wasn’t smart. Want to do some research? Anything you’re interested in, type into a search bar with the word ‘Reddit’ at the end. 

You’ll find a wide variety of discourse on any subject associated with drugs, not just rabid enthusiasm or blind censoring. Curious about a drug combination? 

See the link at the end of this article for a website that tells you the results of combining drugs.

Got some street drugs and afraid it might be laced with fentanyl? Test it, or take it to a lab to get tested if your city has such a service. 

Drugs aren’t bad. Dying from a drug overdose is bad.

Drugs For Therapy

In stark contrast to the Las Vegas dance floor, the first therapeutic drug experience I had was six years ago with a retired therapist who had discovered the power of psychedelics to accelerate healing.

I had a six hour psilocybin mushroom journey that opened up a world of self-exploration, healing, and flourishing for me and subsequently for hundreds of others that I’ve referred to psychedelic healers. In one session I resolved emotional trauma from my childhood that 20 years of conventional therapy hadn’t touched.

Psychedelics don’t work for everyone. But used properly they are completely safe and worth trying. 

My daughter has had some success using Ketamine to treat an eating disorder. Nikean Foundation, which I founded in 2019, has collected many more stories of success in using unconventional drug therapies to treat personal trauma. 

The number one reaction I’ve heard from many people over the years trying a recreational or therapeutic drug for the first time is, “That was amazing! Why is this illegal?” 

That was amazing! Why is this illegal? 

Answering that question will take you down a rabbit hole that will sadden and infuriate you if you have genuine concern for humanity. Start with Dr. Hart’s book.

The solution to the damage done by the War on Drugs is education and conversation. If you use drugs therapeutically or recreationally and have benefitted, talk about it. We need more information and dialog, not lies and fear-mongering. The solution is to get smarter about drug use.

Thank god we have protections in place against the misuse of drugs

If you use drugs and you’re in a dark place, talk to someone, get some help. 

If you’re thinking about using drugs, make sure it’s in a safe and controlled environment, with people you trust and who know what they’re doing. 

Talk about your own drug use openly and talk about how to use drugs safely and effectively. 

The path to better mental health outcomes requires more education and more conversation. It requires more smart people. 

Drugs are for smart people. Be smart, people.

This post is important to me, please consider sharing and reposting.

  1. An excellent website to tell you what’s safe and what’s stupid when combining drugs.

  2. Battling addiction or dealing with trauma? Try Internal Family Systems therapy.

  3. The real story of what happened when American war veterans addicted to heroin returned home and discovered they weren’t addicted after all.

  4. Nixon aide admits the war on drugs was created to jail blacks and Vietnam war protestors.

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