Back in the 1980s, the slogan "Just Say No to Drugs" was popularized by First Lady Nancy Reagan (husband US President Ronald was a keen consumer of a popular prescription sleeping pill that later became contorversial for its alleged dangers). Now…

the issues in the Drug Wars have clarified themselves further. The aggressive marketing of prescription drugs of which the long-term effects are often unknown have made Big Pharma substance abuse virtually mandatory for many people — notably, countless schoolchildren whose supervisors can’t or won’t handle manage them and perky professionals who can’t contemplate starting a new long day without an anti-depressant uplift.

We say "yes" to legal drugs as if they were as essential to us as food and water. Meanwhile, the spectre of illegal drugs is apparently so awful that we tolerate disgraces like the widely publicized case of a 92-year-old American woman who was killed last year by blundering enforcement officers who tried to cover their asses by planting drugs in her home after the fact. Social pressure and/or coercion is employed to get people to take "good" drugs. Decades-long prision sentences are often in store for those who take "bad" drugs — people deemed so evil that they are manufactured where they don’t exist, and whose capture where they do exist is seen as so crucial that any abuse of human dignity is permitted in the pursuit.

We are warmly invited to say "yes" to drugs — as long as they are the products of the pharmaceutical manufacturers that are in league with democracy-resistant public health authorities world wide. All other forms of drug-taking — including those that are or until recently have been legal and tolerated — are increasingly subject to the full weight of state punishment and intimidation.

Several newly released books take a very critical look at the pharmaceutical industry and its allies in public health, focusing on the specific phenomenon of antidepressants. They are a must-read for people puzzled about the recent rebirth of prohibitionist fervour and who may be wondering why just about everyone on their block is zonked out on Prozac or one of its offspring. Among other things, we learn that Big Pharma even has its own insider jargon for the practice of incubating "grass roots" organizations that create bogus demand for bogus disorders: "astroturfing". Kinda catchy, that. As all football fans know, Astroturf is artificial grass. Thus, the well-paid PR flacks of the corporate world enjoy ironic in-jokes at the expense of the less privileged who rot in jail, lose their homes and children, and are otherwise marked and destroyed as casualties in the vomit-makingly hypocritical War on Drugs.



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