Synopsis of Six Articles on Drugs
These articles were never written -- a great loss since Crowley
succinctly anticipates (by at least thirty years) the main trends in
sociological and psychopharmacological thought as they developed, often
painfully, in the 1960s and 1970s. Although this synopsis appears to have
been written in mid-to-late 1920s (possibly the early 1930s), the articles
could well have appeared in The Psychedelic Review or The Journal of
Psychedelic Drugs. Aside from underscoring Crowley's pioneering work in
this field, this synopsis remains valuable as an outline of Crowley's
mature view of drugs later in his life -- their use and abuse. Explanatory
notes are provided for this publication.
I. General Survey
A. Almost universal ignorance of the true facts about Drugs. Wild
statements on both sides; delights and dangers exaggerated.
B. General account of the principal drugs which have a psychical
interest: Alcohol, Ether, Chloroform, Hashish, Anhalonium Lewinii,
 Opium (various forms), Atropine (Belladonna), Stramonium,
Opium derivatives: Cocaine, Morphine, Heroin.
C. Two main types of drug: ``One man's meat is another man's poison.''
D. Need to distinguish between the various forms of intoxication, and
to identify the true cause of the action of any given drug.
E. The general use of each drug, and the reason in each case of any
tendency to abuse. The action of a certain drug upon a certain
person in good health totally different to that upon a sick one.
II. Historical Survey
A. Ethnographical and climatic distribution.
B. Connection of intoxication, mania, and religious ecstasy. Ceremoni-
ous use of drugs by various cults.
C. My own researches since 1899. Why I took up the study. The personal
equation. Summary of my results. Importance of the technique of
administration. Experiments on other people.
III. The Abuse of Drugs
A. Why people resort to drugs.
1. Personal idiosyncrasy.
2. The search for new sensations.
3. Failure to fit environment.
6. Hypocrisy. (Where Public Opinion condemns pleasure, those who
fear it resort to secret vices.)
7. Ambition to obtain praeterhuman power or knowledge.
8. The stress of modern life.
9. Excess of imagination.
10. Excess of sensitiveness.
13. Moral weakness.
B. Commoner results of abuse.
Alcohol: well known.
Chloroform: few cases known.
Opium (smoking): bad results rare.
Morphine: nervous collapse, madness, insomnia, digestive trouble.
Ether: the alcohol plus paralysis.
Anhalonium Lewinii: insanity.
Cocaine: nervous collapse, insanity.
Laudanum: see De Quincey, Coleridge, and Wilkie Collins.
Heroin: like Morphine, with great dullness and depression.
C. Conditions which lead from use to abuse.
D. Difficulties in the way of stopping. Nature of the temptation to go
In the case of Alcohol and Ether I find no inclination to do so, I
take either quite casually, but instinctively avoid frequent repeti-
With Hashish and Anhalonium, I have a powerful repulsion and can
only force myself to take them by a stern sense of duty.
With Opium smoking, I indulge very mildly when the company is
attractive; I have tried long and vainly to acquire the habit.
With Morphine, I dislike the effect subconsciously; no temptation to
With Cocaine, the first few sniffs produce an impatient uneasiness;
I am almost irresistably driven to go on to my physiological limit
for that time; but privation causes neither suffering nor regret.
With Heroin over-indulgence always causes vomiting. I have succeeded
in acquiring enough of a habit to make it hard to break off. The
symptoms are severe; but now that I know how to employ palliatives,
I can break away sharply and survive the craving with four days
moderate discomfort at most. Suppression causes fear, which induces
resumption; and fills the mind with specious arguments in favour of
taking `one last dose.'
IV. Commercial Aspects
A. Effects of repressive legislation. Enormous profits to
1. Pedlars and smugglers.
4. Quack doctors.
5. Sanitarium sharks.
6. Secret nostrum vendors.
7. Sensational journalists.
8. Spies and officials.
These would vanish if prohibition became effective or the laws were
B. Cost to nation.
1. Loss of `victims'' economic value.
2. Maintenance of machinery of prohibition; inspectors, spies etc.,
support of convicts.
3. Loss of dignity, by making physicians and pharmacists subject to
police degrades those professions, keeps away the best class of
men from them, and so destroys the nation's health.
C. Cheapness of drugs tends to drive out alcohol. Most drugs can be
made synthetically from `harmless' ingredients.
V. The Treament of Drug Habits
A. Some drugs, e.g. Opium, produce a physical craving due to the
chronic poisoning of the tissues. Suppression may therefore be
fatal. The symptoms of suppression may be so severe that even strong
willed people need assistance in stopping. Others, e.g. Cocaine,
present little physical obstacle to suppression; the pull is mainly
B. Each patient needs special treatment. This depends on
1. The original cause of the habit.
2. His constitution.
3. His environment.
4. His prospects for the future.
C. Various theories of cure; the main objection to each.
D. My own theory and practice.
The Law of Thelema is the cure. Each patient must be analysed until he
discovers for himself the true purpose for which he came into the
world. He will then resolve firmly to stop drugs as hindrances to his
doing his will. He is assisted by palliatives when any physical
symptoms tend to overcome his resolution.
E. Palliatives useful in various crises.
VI. The Mastery of Drugs
A. Man must be trained to use drugs with impunity.
B. Experiments must be made to discover how the undoubted physical and
moral assistance of drugs may be turned to the best advantage.
C. Results of my own researches in this direction.
Alcohol. Too general in its action to be useful.
Ether. Invaluable for mental analysis; also to discover one's own final
judgment on any matter. Gives the power to appreciate the elements of
which sensation is made up. Example: Feeling one's finger move in
Hashish. Good for mental analysis. Aids imagination and builds up
courage. One can trace the genesis of ideas, solution sometimes given
in a series of pictures. Example: How property began.
Anhalonium Lewinii. Like Hashish. (All three excellent for enabling one
to get behind one's superficial ideas and discover the roots of one's
Morphine, Opium etc. Aids concentration. Relieves pressure of worrying
thoughts; aids creative imagination. Objection: Injures executive
ability, so that ideas are sterile.
Cocaine. Prevents fatigue, enabling one to work at full pressure for an
indefinite time. Example: My New Orleans method and work done at
Heroin. Combines the virtues of Opium and Cocaine. Excites imagination;
helps concentration and calm; increases executive power and endurance.
Example: [The Diary of a] Drug Fiend.
D. The Technique of Administration. Select proper drug by experiment.
Dosage. The Opsonic curve. The weather and other conditions.
1. The peyote cactus, Lophophora williamsii in modern taxonomy (sometimes
referred to as ``31'' in Crowley's diaries - the gematria of ``A.L.'').
Crowley refers to a Parke, Davis & Co. liquid preparation in which the
chief alkaloid mescaline was more concentrated than in mescal buttons.
Crowley consulted with Parke, Davis in Detroit on its preparation
(Confessions, p. ???).
2. Atropine is not now considered a natural component of Atropa belladonna,
but rather a byproduct of chemical or heat extraction during which the
chief alkaloid hyoscyamine partly changes to atropine. Neither alkaloid
is reported to be hallucinogenic in non-toxic quantities, unlike
scopolamine, another alkaloid present in smaller amounts. See R.E.
Schultes and A. Hofmann, The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens,
(Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, 1973), p. 161.
3. Stramonium is one of four divisions of the genus Datura, and has three
species. Crowley probably refers to thorn apple, also called jimson
weed, whose principal active component is scopolamine. Ibid, p. 167.
4. Cocaine is not an opium derivative -- this may be a copyist's error.
5. Laudanum is a tincture of opium. See Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of
an Opium Eater, (London: Cresset Press, 1950); Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
``Kubla Khan'', The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
ed. E.H. Coleridge, vol. I, pp. 295-298, (London: Oxford University
Press, 1912); and Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, (London: Collins,
6. Crowley describes the ``New Orleans Method'' as ``exciting the mind by
morphine and then steadying it by cocaine''in The Magical Record of the
Beast 666, ed. Symonds & Grant (Montreal: 93 Publishing, 1972), p. ???,
which also records much of Crowley's work at Cefalu.
7. Crowley, The Diary of a Drug Fiend, (London: Collins, 1922 and New York:
Dutton, 1923), currently available in paperback from Samuel Weiser, Inc.
8. The opsonic curve is probably a drug-tolerance curve, plotting dosage,
time (frequency) and an opsonic index (of the levels of opsonin in the
blood). Opsonin is a component of blood serum that renders foreign
matter and toxins (such as some drug molecules) - susceptible to attack
by phagocytes. Thus, as the opsonic index rose, dosage would need to be
increased (according to an ``opsonic curve'') in order to overcome
increasing drug tolerance and maintain the same level of intoxication.