Situating Psychedelics and the War on Drugs Within the Decolonization of Consciousness
Keywords:Biopolitics, consciousness, decoloniality, psychedelics, war on drugs
This article provides a rationale for understanding the United States’ war on drugs as a biopolitical enterprise that restricts the states of consciousness humans can avail themselves to. Given the intimate relationship between psychoactive drugs and human cognition, perception, and behavior, the tactics of illegalization, persecution, and misinformation mobilized by the war on drugs have inherently delimited the conscious states available to the population. Drug regulations and prohibitions in contemporary US society have resulted in a biopolitical normalization of consciousness that reinvokes colonial refrains of domination historically mobilized against traditional ritual, healing, and spiritual practices and pharmacopeias. From a decolonial perspective, the biopolitical delimitation of consciousness ensuing from the war on drugs can be understood as a form of epistemic hegemony insofar as the alternate states brought about by certain drugs, in this case psychedelic substances, are delegitimized despite an array of evidence attesting to their epistemological, therapeutic, and philosophical import. By examining contemporary research on classic psychedelics, this article illustrates how psychedelics temporarily suppress the top-down structures which maintain normal waking consciousness, including the perceptual and conceptual boundaries that influence behavior. As such, this article examines how classic psychedelic drugs and experiences can be understood as anarchic agents that can assist in decolonizing the spaces of consciousness wherein unyielding colonial patterns of thought have become concretized.
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