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.