An open letter to drugs

Dear Drugs,

It has been a while since our last exchanges. It is rather obvious that for the past decades our relationship was quite tumultuous, to say the least. I could argue for hours and hours about the intricacies, causes and effects of my current behavior towards you. Some plead that we need to, perhaps, reflect on our stance. Others maintain that our current settlement, despite its drawbacks, is perfect the way it is; that we are all better off now and I didn’t even need you in the first place. Anyhow, it is undeniable that there are some second thoughts. You might have already noticed it. Nevertheless, that’s not what this letter is about. I don’t want to pick on you an umpteenth time. Yet, there is a problem between you and me, that is indisputable. However, to solve a problem, one needs to grasp its nature, its underpinnings. Why, do we crave each other so much? How are we so tied together?

Well, the first natural answer is: you are quite engaging. Hell, I am not even the only one to long for you. Research has shown that animals yearn for you. I even gave it a name: zoopharmacognosy. Dolphins sniff pufferfish’s toxins, flies imbibe alcohol and pen-tailed tree shrew survives off drinking fermented nectar from bertam palm. It is only natural then that I would crave you as much as Mother Nature does. At least, that it was
Dr. Robert Dudley believes in what has been coined the “drunken monkey hypothesis”. According to Dr. Dudley, human attraction to ethanol dates to a time when I didn’t even exist. Specifically considering pen-tailed shrews’ survival behavior, humans’ attraction to ethanol, the active substance of alcohol, might derive from their primate ancestors’ dependence thereof. The latter would have been developed through homo sapiens’ consumption of ripe and fermented fruits, which, at its most cholerically dense, would reach its sweetest stage.  Should this hypothesis hold true, first alcohol consumption would be traced back about 10 million years ago, according to Robert Evan’s “Brief History of Vice”. Its significance would be astounding. Humans would be almost genetically drawn to you. Thus, I would be a mere facilitator of your consumption, and not an active player.

However, the point of this reckoning-letter requires a certain amount of intellectual honesty. Consequently, I must recognize my active role in our intertwinement. Yes, let’s not bury our hands in the sand. Since the very beginning, we have been entwined.
It appears that for as long as I have existed, I have cultivated you. Everywhere I popped up, you tagged along.The first recollection I have dates back 5,000 years B.C., when the Sumerians pictured the first ideogram in your image, in the form of opium.  I still have records from 3,500 B.C. depicting ancient Egyptian breweries.  Swiss Lake Dwellers consumed poppy seeds a thousand years later. Amerindian tribes on the island of Hispaniola inhaled tobacco through their nose, to allow the nicotine to directly reach the mucus membrane of the brain. The Hindu Vedas praised you as lifting “the soul from heaven to the earth”. The Babylonian Talmud hailed wine as “the head of all medicine”, noting that “where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary”.

Everywhere I am, at any point in time, I have saluted you and your benefits. From the very beginning, I saw potential in your effect, and I used this potential. I genuinely claimed some of your attributes had healing abilities, such as opium in 7th century China. When faith didn’t relieve the miserable, I advocated you to alleviate their pain: “Give strong drink to those who is perishing” the Proverbs bolstered.  If I needed soldiers, I would offer you to give to embolden soldiers in battle, such as druids intoxicating Gallic warriors with chouchen before the field of battle. If I wanted my people to experience a taste of spirituality, I would proffer entheogenic plants before them, such as the Aztecs did in fitting their rites. You were, also, a tempting instrument of control, as proved the eagerness of the British Empire to re-introduce opium in a drug-avert, inward-looking, Chinese polity; the former willing to go through two wars to have its way.

In our history, I have also grown to dislike your influences. As early as 2,000 B.C. did an Egyptian priest profess: “I, thy superior, forbid thee to go to the taverns. Thou art degraded like beasts”. 17thcentury Czarist Russia effectively sanctioned death for any proven user of tobacco. The old Chinese Empire forbade the older-still habit of opium consumption by 1792. Three years earlier, at the far side of the world, the first American Temperance society was found in Connecticut. The Temperance lobby would, eventually, succeed in establishing the infamous Prohibition in the United States. The effects of which, can still be found nowadays. Nevertheless, despite all my periodical efforts, I could not get rid of you.

I have given you all the names one could think of. Throughout history, I have variably, and simultaneously, hailed you, hunted you, distributed you and thrusted you on people. You have inspired the beautiful, provoked the worst, healed the ill and deteriorated the unwell. Yet, you have done none of that by yourself. I am the trigger of your bearings. I am responsible for your influence. What you achieve, or destroy, emanates from how I choose to stand with you. You are sensitive topic, a difficult conversation, albeit a necessary one. This is letter is not, in fact, addressed to you.It is to myself.



Antoine Lomba

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