A Dose of Good Drug News

Bottom and Titania on drugs

Bottom and Titania, in a trippy midsummer night’s scene, courtesy of Puck’s potion

There’s evidence that Shakespeare used cannabis and even cocaine—not to mention that ubiquitous drug, alcohol—in the course of his life and work. Check out this article for an overview, including a fun rundown of some of the plays that feature drugs. The author points out that the “plays include a shed-load [of drugs] if you include the poisons, most of which we’ll omit. Just don’t expect too much of the consumption to be consensual.”

The closest modern counterpart to the love potion that made that ass Bottom appear so irresistible to Titania is MDMA, or ecstasy. There’s fascinating research being done on the value, as the study’s title puts it, of “MDMA-assisted Therapy for Social Anxiety in Autistic Adults.” Early results are promising. Many participants reported that MDMA helped them experience a genuine connection to the social world around them—often for the first time. Suddenly they get how socializing works and feel themselves on the inside of it. For example, they get the pleasures of the to-and-fro of conversation, enjoying listening as much as talking. In another example, a man described the revelation of finally getting what is so wonderful about dancing. Best of all, and curiously, such effects weren’t state-dependent. Rather, these participants reported lasting changes in how they experience social interactions. (You can listen to the researchers discuss their work here—which is where I got the examples.) Why a drug like MDMA would facilitate such lasting changes in those suffering from autism spectrum disorders is a fascinating subject ripe for idle speculation. Another time, perhaps; but I suspect it will lead to a deepening discussion of mind over matter.

Meanwhile, over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan and his crew have had some excellent, smart posts about cannabis and psychedelics. In a recent post about how even religious folks are changing their minds about cannabis, Sullivan points out that as cannabis becomes legal it is likely to have many positive effects on our culture, both recreationally and medically.

If you have watched marijuana keep another human being alive and nourished in the worst throes of AIDS, as I have, and then watched them get their life back, it changes you. If you have ever met a child with seizures who, thanks to this plant, can begin to construct a calmer, saner life, it will affect you deeply. To call a plant that can do this a “demon weed” simply becomes nonsensical.

The final bit of drug news is also good, albeit in that qualified way where we’re heartened to see the enemy on her knees, gasping for life. In this case, the gasping takes the form of a desperate bit of propaganda from Obama’s appointee to head the DEA, Michele Leonhart.

There was just an article last week, and it was on pets. It was about the unanticipated or unexpected consequences of this, and how veterinarians now are seeing dogs come in, their pets come in, and being treated because they’ve been exposed to marijuana. Again, it goes back to the edibles; it goes back to products that are in the household that are now made from marijuana, and it’s impacting pets. We made a list of the outcomes we thought that might happen in these two states. We never thought of putting pets down.

You know the government’s war on drugs is failing when one of its leading warriors is reduced to arguing that a good reason for keeping cannabis illegal (and an army of DEA agents employed at taxpayer expense of over 2 billion dollars last year) is for the sake of our dogs. The irony and hypocrisy here are especially rich, given that law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, routinely and often needlessly kill dogs. Many more dogs than will ever be harmed by cannabis. So, if it’s dogs we’re worried about, ending the war on drugs will save lives. For the record, despite the insinuations in Leonhart’s testimony, cannabis is not toxic; “exposure” can no more poison or kill your dog than it can kill you. No one has ever died from using cannabis; the contrast with the harm alcohol does is striking.

Jacob Sullum has a smart, informative piece on the story behind Leonhart’s latest nonsense. If you doubt that marijuana prohibition has been hard on dogs, check out the series of links at the end of his article—assuming you have the stomach for reading about the wanton killing of dogs by armed agents searching for, um, a plant and its flowers.

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