Commentary | Dank research, McGill Daily

Re: “More than just chemicals on the brain” | Culture | March 15

Are your average McGill undergraduates smarter than most tenured professors at the best American universities? Congratulations: apparently you are.

What’s the proof? One of your yet-to-be-degreed students, Aaron Vansintjan, recently wrote an article that boldly flies in the face of mainstream scholarship produced by history, classics, and women’s studies departments stretching across the United States. And it turns out he’s right. 
In “More than just chemicals on the brain,” an intellectual slap-in-the-face to respected academics from the U.S., Vansintjan attempts to reexamine the evolutionary relationship between humans and their long history of drug use. He accurately claims that many of the world’s oldest cultures promoted drugs that are now deemed dangerous, illegal, and addictive by the modern West; medicines, recreational substances, sacraments, and vehicles once used for the spread of culture have now become the great scourges of Christian modernity.

And the historical evidence is squarely on his side. For example, the Greeks – the folks who created democracy and the scientific method – flourished while under the influence of strong hallucinogens, painkillers, stimulants, and anxiolytics. They had no drug laws and no cartels. How do I know this? I published a book on the topic after my dissertation committee demanded I remove an entire chapter on recreational drugs from my thesis on Roman pharmacy – it was an otherwise drab work on ancient pharmacology. In the words of the former head of the classics department at the University of Wisconsin, “They just wouldn’t do such a thing.”

Congratulations, McGill: you are ahead of the American curve. And by the way, the Christian church waged the first drug war against women who were using plants and animal toxins to induce abortion. Due to your time at McGill, I’m confident you are not completely surprised. 

David Hillman
Author of The Chemical Muse: Drug use and the roots of Western civilization


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