The Naked Truth About Drugs by Daniel E. Williams

Originally published in 2004 ‘The Naked Truth About Drugs’ by Daniel E. Williams is a retrospective look at the socio-historical place of drugs in U.S. history. Interspersed within the narrative, Daniel entwines episodes from his own life, including his experiences of a variety of drugs and, as a drug user, his place within society during some of the pivotal eras in drug culture’s history.

Whilst Daniel does touch upon some of the ancient history of drug consumption, in order to put into focus the extent to which humans have had a long tradition of dosing themselves, he largely focuses on the late 19th and 20th centuries in regard to his home nation – the U.S.A.. He explores, in a very clear minded and methodical fashion, the historical contexts for the introduction of certain drugs, the social utility that was found for them and the way in which successive governments have created and manipulated them through law.

The usual psychedelic suspects are examined, like LSD, psilocybin, amphetamines and mescaline but he also looks at barbiturates and substances like methaqualone and benzodiazepine. This is important in the book because it demonstrates how widespread drug use has been, and is, without merely reducing use down to some sort of ‘drug class’ of people. The human relationship with drugs reaches across social boundaries and effects individuals and groups in many diverse ways. Why is this important? Because it goes a long way in proving the failure of the ‘drugs war’ and the whole legal matrix surrounding them.

As Daniel notes: “They say keeping drugs illegal is our only hope, our only prayer, to keep the lid on. Like the only thing stopping 98% of us from running out and shooting heroin or smoking cocaine is respect for the law. Such a premise is not only an affront to our collective common sense, it represents a direct threat to our common good.” Instead, however, legally prescribed drugs like certain amphetamines are being pumped into certain sections of society: “U.S. children consume nearly 85% of all stimulant drugs – over 8 tons a year – to treat ADDH.” If statistics like that don’t shock, then perhaps the Prozac prescriptions for parents are doing a good job at over-stabilising moods.

However, I shouldn’t give the impression that The Naked Truth About Drugs is merely a long statistical takedown on the legal matrix. What makes this such an endearing book are the biographical episodes that Daniel includes. They have the effect of both personalising the problems and introducing some of the many benefits that psychedelics, in particular, offer society and the individual: “When the LSD came on, all that I thought I knew, all that I considered real, all of just about everything, changed. I can’t say I went out of my mind; the borders being debatable, but going out of body is quite the surreal event. And the wild and vivid hallucinations were an absolute joy to behold, many presenting unmitigated rapture. I still get goose bumps.”

On the flip side of experiential joy are Daniel’s experiences as a young man, as someone picked out by a local policeman for harassment because of his use of drugs. He describes one particular occasion when his house was unlawfully raided: “My roommate and I were cuffed and herded into the front room, joining the girls. All of us were naked. It would be nearly an hour before the girls were allowed to cover up, time the police spent ogling and ransacking. We weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom unaccompanied, and one girl just couldn’t hold it.” It’s not so much a question of ‘these evils coppers’ but rather what are they doing wasting their time on such petty affairs when serious crime is being committed?

One passage in particular makes this book well worth reading. In it, Daniel describes his experiences in the U.S. army, wherein he was posted to an obsure nuclear missile site in West Germany. The base was riddled with drug use/abuse and the passage describes Daniel’s and the new Captain Wilson’s efforts to bring the site under control – a real life example of how an alternative to zero tolerance was able to bring the situation under control.

The Naked Truth About Drugs is a very succinctly written book and Daniel constructs his argument very carefully and, more importantly, meaningfully. Though it would be nice to have had a reference section and bibliography included with the text, this doesn’t detract from the main points of his contention. One line from the book perfectly summarizes the position we are all currently in: “When good people obey bad law, bad law never changes.” This book isn’t directed, I believe, at certain sections of society but rather to society as a whole and if you have friends who are pro the ‘war on drugs’ you could do an awful lot worse than give them this book to read. To buy or download a copy, please visit Daniel’s website The Opium Den, where you can also find more information and listen to his brilliant talk show on the topic.

Via the House

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2 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    If anything at all, it should be permitted under certain conditions attainable to the layman. Not only has the “War on Drugs” lasted an inexorable stint, during which many were jailed (and laws amounted), it has created untold amounts of social-anxiety among the ethically minded citizens of america. Most who are of the like constitution, where drug use was considered taboo (and the fear grows as the counter-culture digs in), are constantly appalled by the things they hear on television and in general media. It is now well-established among the people that many individuals who are in a bad way turn to gangs and drugs inter alia, and that they will eventually come to harm (both of their own volition and purportedly outside influences).

    Mind altering drugs have been seen concurrently as a mode of rebellion, rather than a tool for spiritual gain or appreciation of nature (notwithstanding current empirical research that proves some organic and synthetic chemicals are of use to our society), and should prove to perpetuate a cycle of enforcement, that has heretofore been preserved as it was years ago (generally speaking), and cause greater harm than it intended to prevent. It is disheartening to know that some folks will not stop until they get their fix; the chemicals that are being illicitly made and sold as (probably harmful) forms of the same chemicals that were condemned. It is also a gross injustice that the rules of legal intoxication have been continually upheld on the honour system that so many Americans have willfully violated

    This book seems to be a good choice, as there is no real anecdotal evidence for much of anything pertaining to drug use/abuse save for the terrible police reports and other highly sensationalized documentaries that are featured on television these days. Our first-amendment rights are clearly being violated in terms of the use of psychedelics. Hopefully, this book will shed light on rational and beneficial policies that may alleviate pressure on our executive offices (as well as our hospitals). For many, the risks clearly out-way the benefits when presented with an opportunity for drug use, and this may improve if there is as much money spent on, for example, safety seminars, or any simpler method of harm reduction. I honestly believe that what is permitted in one sect should be permitted in all sects (with adequate provisions).

    • Chris says:

      The opinionated rant above should ring true for everyone in many countries, not just America. The only things you will hear about drugs, if you don’t know where to look, will prove to be overwhelmingly negative. Much of this has come from illicit use without caution or care. Just as we do with other intoxicants, it seems essential that they should be provided with a means for safe use.

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