Greg Cochran has a post up wondering about the explosion of recreational drug use in the West starting in the mid-60’s. He makes the point that drugs were available, in addition to alcohol, for people in the West, but we have little evidence that people used them for fun, despite what libertarians claim. As far back as we have information, Western societies would abuse alcohol, but that was it, as far as recreational drug use. Other substances were limited to medicine if used at all.
The Greeks and Romans had opium, but there’s no record of it being used for anything other than medicine, at least among the public. Move forward and that remains true into the medieval period. There are reports here and there of people using various things for medicine, but there’s no record of smoking hash or opium as a party drug. It was not until the age of exploration and the arrival of the Chinese and opium dens into the West that we get reports of recreational drug use among western people. Even that was very limited.
In the United States, marijuana was available, along with indigenous hallucinogenics, from the earliest days of the colonies. In the 19th century you have references to morphine addicts, but those are rare. Into the 20th century morphine was sold retail, as no one considered it a public health risk. Everyone has heard about the use of cocaine in consumer products like tonics and beverages. Well into the 20th century, drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana and some hallucinogenics were available, yet rarely used or abused.
Then something changed in the 1960’s. If you were an American teen in 1960 hanging out with friends, the odds that any of you had smoked pot were extremely low, unless maybe you were black. It does appear that drug taking was associated with black culture, but more on that in a bit. By 1970, the teenager of that same town would know many pot smokers and probably tried it at least once. In fact, within that decade it went from rare to common. By the 70’s, not having smoked pot made you an exception if you were young.
The question is how did this happen? It is not a small change in cultural norms. This is a huge change and it happened faster than anything else that comes to mind. Humans were just as susceptible to the charms of opiates in the 19th century as they are today, presumably. In the first half of the 20th, doctors were quick to prescribe things like cocaine to children to sooth teething. People were given liberal amounts of morphine for pain as it was the only effective pain killer. Even during Prohibition, drug use did not increase, despite the obvious demand to get wasted.
My initial thought, at least in America, is that the explosion of recreational drug use corresponds with the collapse of racial barriers in the US. If you read American fiction from the early 20th century, particularly the 20’s and 30’s, you get some oblique references to smoking pot, associated with Jazz. People up into the 50’s used to call joints “Jazz cigarettes” for that reason. Jazz, of course, was always strongly linked to black culture and strongly linked to whites and blacks mixing socially. This was not just in America. Josephine Baker got world famous in the Paris jazz scene.
The explosion of drug use does appear to correlate with the break down of racial barriers. Opium, for example, was always associated with the Chinese. Cocaine use was strongly associated with blacks going crazy in the South. After Prohibition ended, FDR turned the Prohibition Bureau into the Federal Narcotics Bureau. They immediately began to campaign against things like marijuana, which were linked to anti-social behavior of Mexicans and blacks. Even today, there is a racial component to drug taking. Crack was largely a black problem, while meth is a white problem.
Music followed a similar path out of American black culture into the dominant white culture. Jazz clubs were the first places whites and blacks could mingle socially. Eventually, whites were playing jazz and then rock-and-roll followed the same path. It’s not just music and weed, but the modern West now gets all of its cultural cues from the American black ghetto. Hip-hop being the latest example. I was in Dublin and I saw Irish kids dressed like extras from Straight Out of Compton.
If we take a step back, the break down of racial barriers corresponds with the breakout of multiculturalism in the West. For half a century, the West has been raging against itself and even raging against biology. Feminism, and the more recent anti-white male stuff, is not just a war against the culture, but also a war against reality. The explosion of drug taking is just one item in the satchel of madness the West picked up somewhere in the middle of the last century.
If you are a fan of Greg Cochran, then you may see where this is headed. The great mixing of people that happened in the first half of the 20th in the great world wars brought masses of common people into contact with their contemporaries from around the world. That’s lots of foreign people breathing on one another, bleeding on one another, fornicating with one another. Just as trade facilitated the Black Plague, the great wars facilitated the movement of all sorts of things around the world.
Hold that thought and think about the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Rodents infected with this parasitic protozoa are drawn to the smell of cat urine, apparently having lost their otherwise natural aversion to the scent. This parasite can only reproduce in the gut of a feline so it is a very useful feature of this parasite, but not so good for the rodent. This parasite also causes trouble for humans, which is why pregnant women are told to avoid cat litter. It is entirely possible that it has other affects on humans. In other words, your cat may be controlling your brain.
Now to tie this all together. Greg Cochran came up with something called the Gay Germ Hypothesis, which suggest that maybe a germ or virus causes homosexuality. Others have suggested that pathogens could be at the root of other conditions as well. What if some sort of pathogen got looses in the West and is at the root of the anti-social behavior? What if there is some benefit to this bug in having humans mix together across the normal ethnic and tribal barriers? What if all the things we are seeing in the West are the result of a germ or virus that got going in the great wars of the 20th century?