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The Essential Ellen Willis$
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Ellen Willis and Nona Willis Aronowitz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816681204

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816681204.001.0001

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The Drug War

The Drug War

From Vision to Vice

Chapter:
(p.288) The Drug War
Source:
The Essential Ellen Willis
Author(s):

Nona Willis Aronowitz

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816681204.003.0028

This chapter examines the ideological assault on psychedelic drugs. These days drugs are a metaphor not for freedom or ecstasy but for slavery and horror. It’s the “hard” drugs—especially heroin and cocaine—that obsess the American imagination; the word “drug” has often been intertwined with “abuse” or “menace.” On this issue the ideological right’s triumph over 1960s liberationism is now an unquestioned axiom of public discourse that drugs and drug taking of any but the purely medicinal sort are evil. And yet the use of illegal drugs has never been more pervasive, visible, and socially accepted, especially among young people. Although the counterculture indulged in a lot of mindless romanticism about drugs, there was also a thoughtful side to psychedelic culture, a salutary self-consciousness about the process of drug taking and what it meant. The ideological assault on drugs has given rise to a predictable irony: psychedelics and the idealism surrounding them have gone underground, while the hard drugs, which no one, including their users, ever defended in the first place, become more and more entrenched.

Keywords:   psychedelic drugs, freedom, hard drugs, liberationism, illegal drugs, counterculture, drug taking, idealism

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