Drug Addictions — Toxic Shock
In East Germany, the legal drinking and smoking age was only fourteen! Alcohol and tobacco were readily available from then on. Instead of religious confirmation we had a collective drinking ritual to cross into adulthood. Our entire class visited the homes of all parents from that year’s students in the village where I grew up. All kids including me were served alcoholic beverages at each house. Since there were twenty-three students, we were served that many drinks. I was dragged home half comatose from walking this “tour de pissed.”
A few years later, I downed two 0.7 liters of 40% liquor in 30 minutes together with a friend. This was clearly a sign of foolishness. Perhaps, our actions also resulted from having had access to dangerous legal drugs way too soon and without the rightful education or proper warning on how fatal legal highs can be! My buddy and I, we were both shortly thereafter in care of two beautiful girls who had watched us become dumb-drunk. We tried to be so cool, but really weren’t. As I was lying in the arms of my desired lady and looking into her dark, infinitely beautiful and lovely windows of her soul, my vision blurred. I vomited on her. Not so sexy! I even stopped breathing that night and it was a nurse who happened to be with me that saved my life.
Since then, my relationship with alcohol has been like that of an old trauma. Statistically, I could have been easily one of many people who lost their lives to this terrible drug, which is illegal in most mid-eastern and Muslim countries. According to the World Health Organization, 3.3 million people die each year from the harmful use of alcohol worldwide, although the true numbers are most probably much higher! Alcohol abuse causes two hundred clinical diseases and injury conditions, which can lead to many more secondary deaths. I saw quite a few patients in the hospital that were admitted with acute pancreatitis, a life-threatening medical condition induced by heavy drinking. If that were not enough, the harmful use of alcohol apparently also leads to many significant social and economic losses for individuals and society at large. But why does this psychotropic drug (alcohol) seem so problematic in contemporary Western society today? Is it because it is legally available and therefore not considered harmful by the general public?
In allopathic and other systems of medicine, what makes the difference and separates a drug from being either a poison or a medicine is dosage and indication. If the right dosage is applied for the proper reason and with the appropriate intention, then a drug can have a healing effect. Still, the same substance could become lethal if the dosage is too high and the indication is wrong. In many traditional and natural medicinal systems of healing, there is another element when it comes to finding a cure, or to release a dis-ease. Prayer and intention are not necessarily synonymous with superstition.
Perhaps, cultural factors, like those I was exposed to in East Germany, have a significant influence on the use and abuse of substances. Alcohol functions as the primary social drug in many Western cultures and it is possible that social drinking has contributed to alcoholism being one of the most cost-intensive diseases of the industrial age! It has been scientifically noted that different relationships with any substance can create a physiological and/or psychological reward pattern. This will influence the structure of use that can develop into abuse, but also increases the likelihood of addiction.
Why has alcohol become so problematical, although the majority of people might be ignorant of it, when so many different types of psychoactive substances have been traditionally used for thousands of years by diverse societies without apparent major issues of substance dependencies ever being recorded? It is an interesting historical fact that throughout the world people were not limited to alcohol and tobacco. Instead, there was a wide range of consciousness-altering substances and practices. Humankind, when maintaining a healthy social balance in traditional societies, seems to express a collective necessity to access non-ordinary states of consciousness. Culture, art, and multitudes of ceremonial elements have been directly linked to inebriation. Leading scholars claim that historically, addiction seems to be a cultural syndrome that started during the beginning of the industrialization of the Western world. Apparently, many public health issues in Western society started with distilled alcohol distribution in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. The dramatic increase in the commercial availability of liquor and its consumption nearly tripled after the 18th century when alcohol-related problems and the associated health risks started to be noticed. This first became a moral issue and is documented as a pathological medical condition proposing treatment of habitual heavy drinking in dedicated clinics. Sigmund Freud and other well-known academics had novel ideas about the psychology of addiction. They proposed new ways of understanding its etiology within the emerging sciences of psychology and psychiatry!
Scientific studies show that the destructive habit of psychoactive substance use, like alcohol, surged among indigenous populations during assimilation into Western culture. This went hand in hand with the loss of costumes, rites, identity, language, and finally, meaning. The pagans of Europe also went through this painful process. Throughout the inquisition many wise women were brutally burned alive as witches! Whoever openly doubted the indoctrinating religious world views of the Roman Catholic Church was tortured and murdered.
The associated multinational commercialization of alcohol and tobacco today through advertising on TV, in magazines, in airplanes, and elsewhere is part of a powerful mechanism that constructs a dysfunctional culture. Living in separation and fear of nature contributes significantly to the harmful increase of dependent legal druguse! Human beings are social creatures. When we have lost our native roots, we naturally seek affirmations elsewhere. Alcohol and tobacco are often associated with social prestige, like being cool or hip, having a status, acquiring friendships, having happiness, sex, and so forth. Sure, we need to feel connected with each other and when we are not, we automatically become unbalanced and feel lonely. We then try to fill this emotional hole with something else. Consequently, addictions to all kinds of unhealthy patterns have a fertile ground to mature.
It is also notable that many ceremonial substances that were regarded as “sacred plants” in traditional cultures are now bizarrely considered to be harmful in the Western world. In general, modern Western societies’ approach to psychoactive substances from a functional perspective is seeking mainly the narcotic or invigorating effects and not much else! In indigenous world views, however, psychoactive plants have historically been used largely in rituals with spiritual significance and therapeutic value or with reasons of social relevance. Participating in traditional medicine ceremonies often reconnects the individuals who ingested the potent psychoactive concoctions with nature.
Furthermore, in scientific cross-cultural evaluations, the repeated use of psychoactive substances for religious rites is linked to a low level of harm. For instance, tobacco is considered an important plant by many South American tribes. For North American indigenous people, tobacco is also a very sacred plant. Tobacco functions with all Native Americans as a primary vehicle to communicate with “Great Spirit,” which could be loosely understood as what many Western people refer to as God. On the contrary, in most Western cultures, smoking of tobacco is generally not associated with spiritual intentions. The cigarette packs remind the users of cancer, tumors, deaths, and so forth. Overall, people still consume it rather automatically, with compulsion, and without thinking of their concept of what they consider sacred.
Using psychotropic plants without prayer has proven to be harmful to overall health and the materialistic, culturally rooted attitude encourages the mindless consumption of products and drugs. Without basic education about the cosmic order of things, that everything can be regarded as sacred — medicine plants included — humanity seems to have lost its path. Have we been misguided purposefully for reasons of profit and control? Drugs are made the scapegoat for substance abuse when in truth, addiction and psychological diseases are just a symptom of a dysfunctional Western society!
What constitutes a sacred medicinal plant for some cultures has become a rampant health issue for others! Sadly today, tobacco, with the introduction of cigarettes, marketing strategies, and a massively increased consumption as a result, has become, after alcohol, the most widely consumed drug in the world. Among psychoactive substances, tobacco is responsible for serious health damage worldwide. Tobacco is only one example of many other plants that have widely been used by indigenous people as medicine for healing purposes. Other examples are opium that dates back thousands of years to the Mesopotamian civilization where it was never considered to be a dangerous substance. But when the isolated chemical compounds were introduced to Western culture in the forms of heroin and morphine, they became major issues! Morphine causes many secondary addictions when patients leave hospitals after treatment.
Marijuana has been used as a prayer plant in India and elsewhere. This has been well documented for thousands of years. Profound mystical cultures and spiritual texts resulted from the ritualistic use of cannabis, a psychotropic drug that was internationally and shamefully hunted just like witches were. It must also be stated here that laws prohibiting certain substances to be used seem to make no major difference on their abuse potential, on the contrary! Despite opiates and opioids being illegal for the general public in the USA, a huge health crisis to opiate addictions has spun way out of control! In the Netherlands however, where marijuana is tolerated, there seems to be a peaceful vibe. The rowdiness behavior as a result of many pubs there is also accepted. In places like Norway and Sweden, where alcohol sales are confined to certain shops and opening hours, people seem to binge-drink heavily. Don’t get me wrong. I like to sip on a glass of wine sometimes, although, I mostly stopped drinking alcohol and lived many years without touching the stuff. Still, I have observed other people suffering a great deal from alcohol abuse over the years, but I don’t have a problem with people drinking liquor unless it affects me very personally.
Take Aisling for example, a very attractive and creative, powerful Norwegian goddess. She spent her time making costume art for theatrical characters that she designed on the outskirts of a relatively large Scandinavian town next to a beautiful lake. We became very close friends in the course of many years and started living together, first as lovers and later as spouses. Aisling was clairvoyant and she claimed to see the future. Every year I indeed witnessed her foreseeing fashion trends of colors coming into style and I encouraged her to profit off her unique talents, but she was not interested in that.
Aisling described her experience of walking into a room similar to that of the angel-character who heard everyone thinking from the angel’s perspective in the beginning of Wim Wenders’ movie, “Wings of Desire.” In this film, the angel’s experience thankfully did not continue to be portrayed since it could drive anyone crazy to hear everyone’s thought processes after a few minutes. Aisling normally could read people’s minds with ease and that was not the only talent, or perhaps curse, she was gifted with. She knew of no internal way to turn off her telepathic abilities. The intensity of hearing everyone’s thought process without being able to turn them off quickly overwhelmed her. It made her anxious. She already avoided most social situations because of it. I recommended her to attend a psychic school, such as the Berkeley Psychic Institute for example, where she could probably have learned how to protect herself from other’s psychic energies by using natural methods. Instead, she chose alcohol as a way to dull her psychic abilities and calm her senses. This came with a hefty price that would, over time, turn into a real problem for her. I did not recognize it until it was already too late.
We first met in America where Aisling was smoking marijuana. Ganja seemed to help her condition and calm her down to a worry-free and rather peaceful state. Using grass seemed to make it possible for her to function without anxiety. I lived in California where medical marijuana had been made legally available through the efforts of activists, despite continued resistance from the Federal government. This is where Aisling could legally buy and smoke this herbal medicine, to self-treat her condition and easily relax. I loved her beautiful smile when she was stoned with the calm attitude that she conveyed. The social norm among my group of friends in San Francisco, and many others, was to smoke marijuana instead of drinking alcohol, which was often done at private parties and even at some public events. Although, while people smoking marijuana did not appear to be less addicted to the drug than those drinking alcohol, it remains a fact that marijuana is not nearly as potentially harmful to one’s health, especially if eaten. Research even indicates that marijuana may have significant health benefits when used medicinally.
I had visited a doctor that prescribed marijuana legally at an office on lower Haight Street in San Francisco. He shared the results of his personal Californian study with me, which showed that marijuana could prevent people from using harder illegal drugs, like cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and toxic legal substances like alcohol. The findings of his private investigation were in stark contrast with highly questionable information the US government had propagated around the globe about marijuana. I too was indoctrinated with these now outdated beliefs. I thought that marijuana was a “gateway” drug that always leads to the abuse of harder drugs. Although this might sometimes be the case, it is not necessarily the norm. Also, an interesting fact, marijuana has not caused any deaths! Research shows that no deaths have been reported in relation to marijuana in the USA by 2015 and that this could not be said for a range of other drugs, both legal and illegal.
I could certainly confirm this doctor’s findings in the case of Aisling’s situation. Marijuana not only benefited her, but it could have also prevented her from using far more harmful substances, like alcohol. That is one of the many scientifically proven beneficial effects of marijuana that was recently re-legalized for recreational use in California and several others states. I have witnessed someone with multiple sclerosis taking just one drop of THC oil that relieved his symptoms instantly! Asthma patients greatly benefit, and the list of possible medicinal uses of cannabis goes on and on.
Some countries are waking up to this! Mexico just legalized medical marijuana at the Federal level. The president signed the legislation on June 19th 2017, after passing with an overwhelmingly positive vote in the country’s parliamentary lower house or Cámara de Diputados of 347 in favor to only 7 against. All Schengen countries in Europe already have legal access to medical marijuana, which can be prescribed by Dutch doctors and picked up from pharmacies in Amsterdam, together with other legal psychoactive substances. Norway is preparing for medical marijuana too. The Norwegian Supreme Court recently also took a major step towards decriminalization of psychedelic substances and rescheduled LSD, mushrooms, and MDMA to a lower penalty drug-class. Thanks to the relentless visionary and scientific work of organizations like Maps.org (to whom you can donate), MDMA and psilocybin might soon be on the doctors’ potential list of medications to prescribe. So, things are slowly changing because passionate people make the change — not the government!
The UN, however, has not loosened their recommendations regarding the laws on psychedelics. The Swiss psychologist Samuel Widmer, who had a special government license to legally practice psycholytic psychotherapy with the constructive use of LSD and MDMA in human subjects between 1988 and 1994, gave an interesting answer as to why these substances are not legally available. He shared his opinion during an interview I filmed in Potsdam, Germany, and the following is a translation.
“The medical arguments are that there are not enough clear human studies and that there is not enough proof that these substances are not damaging, but the real reasons are of course political in nature. These substances that were used fell into dispute and to heal the image that they have today is a societal process that must be completed. Behind this hides also something more profound.
Basically, these substances create fear. They are looked upon as something dangerous, because when humans profoundly change and heal to solve dependencies, etc., then it’s to be expected that they [the people having used them] no longer agree with the current power structures of the world and thus no longer fit in. If citizens would principally let these substances into their lives, the world would change! That could be really dangerous to the current power and political structures.
The individuals who sit in the corresponding positions [the politicians] feel this instinctively and they do not want to have this [scenario] unfolding. In this sense they are also right. Legalizing psychedelic substances would be perilous for them and their [power] structures.”
Watch the full interview at: www.transcendentaljourneys.com
So, let’s not be naive. Today, most governments still do not allow the distribution or consumption of mind-expanding substances, like ayahuasca, peyote, psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, and others like it that can provoke the experience of the divine within a person — entheogens. Nonetheless, in the last chapter of this book a plan is presented how that could be changed. The imposition of illegality has dramatically reduced the spectrum and frequency of effective techniques for consciousness-altering and awareness-raising experiences people can enjoy. As a result of widespread government prohibitions, the use of sacred plants and fungi seems very limited in most contemporary Western societies today. Those working with these plants and substances are incriminating themselves and sometimes have to face tough penalties as a result of propagating these powerful game-changers.
When LSD was made illegal in the sixties, the hippy revolution that created a powerful anti-war movement with a euphoric wave of art and hope across the world was brutally beaten down by the American police, beginning in Chicago, where I started my world travels. Timothy Leary was US enemy number one. John Lennon and Kennedy were brutally and mysteriously murdered. Remember how indigenous cultures used psychotropics for advancing cultural expression and social communication? LSD came to the contemporary (Western) world as a healing agent and the most experienced psychology doctors who had experimented with psychedelics in human trials and later presented at the Albert Hofmann symposium in Basel recommended events like Woodstock and other week-long psychedelic music festivals, like the Boom in Portugal, as the ideal scenario and modern ritual-ceremony for taking LSD and other psychedelics with the purpose of collective transformation.
A plethora of documentary evidence and testimony from all around the world provide more than sufficient proof that sacred plant ceremonies can provoke individual awakenings that are very real and lasting. Many people previously ignorant of the fact that empathy and compassion are the natural state of a human being have used such ceremonies to re-discover their true self. Sacred medicine ceremonies have the potential to remove the limited mindset many people have been programmed with. The real work starts after one has seen their true potential and needs to integrate that realization into their everyday lives. This awareness can help guide the individual in their quest towards becoming a better person and a more constructive member of the human race. Sacred plants and substances can be a primary key and effective tool to efficiently open the doors of perception to a more aware state of consciousness.
Surely, it would be a wonderful thing for politicians to willingly participate in an ayahuasca or peyote ceremony. Committing to the process of raising their consciousness and connecting with an ancient source of deep wisdom, before arriving at conclusions on how to make decisions that affect many people, would be one effective way for our countries to obtain wiser leaders. But sacred medicine ceremonies are still widely outlawed, and mostly due to propaganda, many people who attend them are often discriminated against, misunderstood, and even looked down upon for taking part in practices of so-called “primitive civilizations.” The truth is, these natural keys to unlocking consciousness have been used traditionally all around the world since time immemorial for the specific reason to unlock a higher human potential and to heal our relations with nature and each other.
Yet, with the worldwide decimation of indigenous cultures through ambitious monarchs, violent conquerors, and today, certain politicians who often push imperialistic agendas on the majority of the people to severely exploit and irreversibly damage the natural order on our amazing planet, things have gone way out of balance. Sacred substances and even shamanic drumming practices still remain prohibited in some areas. Many government officials have experienced being drunk before despite the knowledge that alcohol can be a deadly intoxicant and most officials may not even be aware that drinking alcohol is far more dulling to consciousness than the ingestion of psychedelics in healing ceremonies or even parties can be.
Any decently educated person understands statistics and you now know that alcohol is one of the biggest killers! Ironically and despite the many dangers of ingesting alcohol, it is commonly used and accepted in political circles, probably because it is legal. I know of a curandero who gave ayahuasca to a high-ranking German health minister who really saw the potential of this ancient technology. Regrettably, the politician was not able to openly talk about it. I cannot mention his name, or he could loose his position in the government because he took an illegal drug.
Ironically, getting addicted to the use of psychedelics like mushrooms, ayahuasca, or peyote is highly unlikely. In fact, these sacred plants have been shown to heal people from addictions to far more potentially damaging things, including unhealthy eating patterns, watching television, pornography, sex, video games, and other destructive physically and/or psychologically ingrained habits.
* This story has been published in Transcendental Journeys – A Visionary Quest for Freedom, the multimedia book by Omananda
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