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Cuba and Immoral and Unpatriotic Drugs (I)

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    A few days ago a young relative of mine came up to me acting mysteriously. It seems he felt tempted to try drugs for the first time and was going around looking for advice. What was I supposed to do? …refuse to help? …tell him that drugs are bad?

    With all the frankness and clarity possible, I told him what I knew about the issue so that he could decide for himself what to do and how to do it.

    He was fortunate to find someone who he could talk to about these issues; but what would he have done if he hadn’t found anyone? Is there any institution or facility set up to educate people about these issues? What point of view, what position is taken by official counselors relating to matter of drugs?

    In my hands I have one of the brochures (1) prepared by Cuba’s ideo-bureaucracy to discourage young people from using these substances and for helping teachers with that daunting task. The purpose of this post is to extract the slices of this manipulative pamphlet that, in my point of view, does more harm than good in helping those having problems with drugs or wanting to get involved with them.

    To begin with, we can read the intention of the author in their own words:

    “To create in students a culture that rejects these manifestations (drug consumption) that are not in accordance with the ethical and moral principles of society.

    “To develop within them (the students) strong convictions and true feelings in keeping with the ethical standards promoted by our society.”

    This is the line of a voluntarist, disrespectful, complacent elite whose preferred teaching method is instilling their own dogmas and prejudices (assumed to be high moral truths) in the minds of others.

    For them, the brains of young people have to be molded (as soon as possible so someone else doesn’t get to them first) by a technician in search of a predefined order. What’s subliminally promoted and spread in these pamphlets — intentionally or not — is chiefly a form of colonialism in human relations.

    For example the notion of “not in accordance with the sound ethical and moral principles society” is a fallacious appeal, an old trick that tries to frighten people with the specter of society.

    It makes it seems as if society were a monolithic whole that holds the absolute truth, and that the author is its spokesperson. And since (according to this false social consensus) drug use has moral implications, “society” has the right to become irate and judge people who involve themselves in this ancient practice.

    Of course drugs are very dangerous, but they can also be of great benefit, at least some of them and when treated with great care. If this is not said, the masses of people who get involved with them every year will do so in the worst way: uninformed.

    In their eagerness to strike panic (and, incidentally, to justify the actions of law enforcement agencies) the author not only reinforces the association of drugs with ethical issues, they also link it to the political conflict with the worst of the worse: the Miami Mafia and the US right-wing.

    We can read where they say:

    “The firm political of principles supported by the Cuban Revolution, systematically distorted by the Miami Mafia and the US extreme right who unsuccessfully try to involve us in drug trafficking, putting pressure so that we appear on a list that every year the White House issues indicating the main countries involved in drug trafficking, requires redoubled efforts…”

    I wouldn’t even deny that this is true, but in a pamphlet for young people designed to clarify the consequences of drug abuse, was so much paraphernalia necessary with the enemy?

    And of course, bound to the moralistic leash of the revolution-counterrevolution dynamic one could not miss the living symbol and the ultimate guarantor of moral virtue and the revolution (according to the venomous paradigm posited by the author): Fidel Castro, from whom the author attached a sinister fragment of a speech (2) delivered in 1999:

    “For those who commit the infamous outrage, the monstrous crime against our country and humanity, of using the territory of Cuba for international drug trade, the death penalty! (Loud applause)

    Castro then adds:

    “You cannot play with this country or the future of this country!”

    It’s “curious” that this booklet doesn’t attempt to analyze the causes of the drug abuse that’s proliferating here. In this sense the author refers only to the increase of international drug trafficking, but not to the frustration, pessimism, despair or the identity crisis caused by a worn-out model.

    Well, I’ve come to the end and I don’t know if anyone else is here with me. I can only recommend to those who don’t know much about the issue to educate themselves before jumping into consuming or recriminating.

    Some people like me believe that certain drugs employed carefully can be personally and socially beneficial. I encourage those others not to remain silent but to share their experiences and arguments in favor of a more harmonious relationship with these powerful and dangerous substances.

    (In the second part I will discuss how the pamphlet lies and manipulates when it introduces the subject of drugs and pharmacological substances.)

    1. Trabajo preventivo relacionado con el uso indebido de las drogas (Preventive Work Related to the Misuse ff Drugs), Pedro J. Pascual Betancourt, Msc.; 2005.

    2. Excerpts from the speech on the occasion of 40th anniversary of the PNR.

    Erasmo Calzadilla
    October 8, 2011


  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Cuba and Immoral/Unpatriotic Drugs (part II)
    [LSD] opened my eyes, made me a better, more honest and tolerant. – Paul McCartney, LIFE Magazine

    HAVANA TIMES, Dec 3 — In a previous post I strongly criticized an official document (*) intended to discourage youth from abusing drugs. I criticized it for its moralistic and authoritarian arguments, its rush to demonize these substances associated with “dangers to the fatherland,” and its limited list of the causes that are today leading to an increase in the irresponsible consumption of psychoactive substances in Cuba.

    In this post, I will continue the critique but will focus on the mistakes that — from a pharmacological point of view — were made in the brochure when dealing with these substances.

    Let’s first look at the definition the handout gives:

    “In general, drugs are any substance that are smoked, snorted, injected, or consumed in any way to produce psychic alterations such as pleasant feelings. However these create a pathological relationship with the individual in which they feel increasingly linked to the drug and are less capable of interesting themselves in or getting pleasure from the normal things of life.”

    One of the most widely used devices for those who debate without solid arguments is lump all the varying cases into one category: those that excite as well as those that calm, the strong ones with the subtle, those that are dangerous to people’s health together with the relatively innocuous ones. This is precisely what was done by the author of the pamphlet and the specialists who advised him.

    To prove that the information provided is false, I will concentrate on the group of psychedelic drugs or entheogens with which I’m most familiar.

    It’s possible that some specific drug fits this definition, but in the case of entheogens — specifically LSD — it missed its target almost completely.

    I’ll proceed by going step by step examining this definition:

    Definition: “Any drug produce psychic alterations, such as pleasant feelings.”

    Entheogens are not recreational drugs that are consumed to pass time having fun, to forget pain, ease the tension of socialization or other immediate benefits. They present us with our most delicate dramas in such a way that those who consume these substances usually go through emotionally difficult moments – ones that have nothing to do with fun.

    After the catharsis, there usually occurs an engaging fullness, but one must pay a high price for this, something that discourages those who are seeking fun for fun’s sake.

    Continuing with the definition: [these substances] “create a pathological relationship within the individual in which they feel increasingly linked to the drug…”

    It’s widely documented by science that entheogens do not cause psychic or physical dependence, which is why they are used in medicine to combat dependency on other addictive substances, including alcohol.

    Many people remain closely linked to entheogens, but this is due to feelings of gratitude, respect and others that are deeper. Of course, there have been cases of people consuming compulsively, just as there are those who compulsively eat food or watch soap operas.

    The definition concludes: [those who consume feel] “less capable of interesting themselves in or getting pleasure from the normal things of life.”

    Finally, entheogens do not impede or prevent “getting pleasure from the normal things of life.” On the contrary, these drugs unbridle sensitivity and intelligence. They invite us to move forward into unexplored aspects of our relations with other beings that inhabit the world. They cause us to experience unfamiliar dilemmas that previously appeared too unreachable and remote. In other words, they cause the opposite of what was stated in the definition.

    Specifically regarding LSD, the brochure reads: “It is a product highly toxic to human health, especially given the neurological impairment it produces…”

    I have reviewed a large number of scientific and non-scientific articles that confirm the very low toxicity of LSD and other psychedelics in the short-term and long-term.

    The “margin of safety” is a parameter used in pharmacology to assess the toxicity of a substance in the body. With aspirin, for example, it is low: 1/20. However, with LSD it is lower still: 1/600. In other words, LSD is hundreds of times less lethal than the most popular painkiller in the world.

    In the case of “magic mushrooms” (entheogen carriers such as psilocybin mushrooms), a person would have to eat roughly their own weight in fresh mushrooms for these to kill them – meaning they would die of indigestion before they would of intoxication.

    Does this mean that entheogens are not dangerous? NO, they are, and complications arising from their use should be clarified and disseminated to potential consumers so they know how to address or minimize the risks, but teaching useful things doesn’t appear to be the intent of the official brochure.

    Alleged neurological effects of LSD

    Regarding the alleged neurological damage caused by LSD, I have reviewed many articles, documents, web pages, etc. seeking confirmation or denial. I found confirmation only in works with dubious scientific foundations, such as the one to which I’m referring here. Otherwise, the scientific articles do not speak so poorly of this substance.

    In the American Journal of Psychiatry, one author considered:

    “Our findings are inconclusive regarding the question as to whether LSD ingestion produces known forms of central nervous system damage.” [2]

    Wikipedia (in English), based on sources as reliable as the Encyclopedia of Medicine and the Encyclopedia of Drugs and Addictive Substances, mentioned nothing concerning neurological damage.

    There are religious communities on our continent that use entheogens in their traditional ceremonies and do not show symptoms of long-term impairment. [7]

    Absurd pharmacological findings

    In concluding the pharmacological section, the author of this pamphlet states:

    “All drugs are harmful, their consumption causes damage to the organs of the body causing problems in the liver, heart, digestive tract, physiological processes, impairment of brain activity, digestion, blood circulation, and mental and emotional health. These cause memory loss and impaired reasoning and contribute to personality disorders. Drugs have led to thousands of deaths from accidents, disease and violence.”

    Again, the old trick of lumping all drugs in the same category is an insult to one’s intelligence and to science. The booklet is mined in many other lies and half-truths, but I won’t dwell further on exposing these.

    Anti-drug pamphlets like this are very harmful because they tend to create an atmosphere of prohibition around these substances (which makes them attractive to many) while also circulating misinformation: a deadly combination indeed.

    Their main objective is ideo-political, and to accomplish this they don’t hesitate to ignore pharmacology and common knowledge.

    (*) “Trabajo Preventivo Relacionado con el Uso Indebido de Drogas” (Preventive Work Related to Drug Abuse), Pedro J. Pascual Betancourt, Msc.; 2005.

    As this is a complex issue, I am presenting the literature upon which I drew:

    1. “Acute Adverse Reactions to LSD in Clinical and Experimental Use in the United Kingdom,” Nicolas Malleson, British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 118, 229-230, 1971.
    2. “Chronic Users of LSD: The ‘Acidheads,’” K. H. Blacker, MD, Reese T. Jones, NID, George C. Stone, PhD, Dolf Pfefferbaum, Vol. 125, September 3, 1968, pp. 341-351, American Journal of Psychiatry.
    3. Halpern J.H., Pope H.G. Jr., “Do Hallucinogens Cause Residual Neuropsychological Toxicity?” Drug Alcohol Dependency 1999; 53: 247-256.
    4. Hollister L.E., “Pharmacology of LSD in Man.” In: Radouco-Thomas C., eds. Pharmacology, Toxicology and Abuse of Psychotominetics. Quebec: Les Presses de l’universite de Laval, 1974, pp. 173-183.
    5. “Long Lasting Effects of LSD on Normals,” William McGlothlin, PhD, Sidney Cohen, MD, Marcella S. McGlothlin, PhD, Los Angeles, Arch. gen., Psychiat, 17, 521-532 (1967).
    6. “LSD: Side Effects and Complications,” Sydney Cohen, MD, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Volume 130, No. 1, January 1960.
    7. “Psychedelic Medicine: Mind Bending, Health Giving,” New Scientist, Date: February 26, 2005.
    8. “The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review, Neuroscience and Terapeutic,” Torsten Passi, John H. Halpern, Dirk O. Stichtenoth, M. Hinderk Emrich & Annelie Hintzen.
    9. Wikipedia (in English). Search term: “LSD.”

    Erasmo Calzadilla
    December 3, 2011
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