The Disease

War on Brains: The Book

A 1980’s War on Drugs poster portrayed a drug-damaged brain as an egg frying in a skillet. The poster’s ominous message, “This is your brain on drugs,” was countered with a catchy call-to-action - “Just Say No” – splashed across the sizzling egg. 
Since the launch of the poster by the Partnership for a Drug Free America, the War on Drugs has escalated from a fried egg to drone-launched missiles and SWAT teams. 
The mantra “Just Say No” introduced by Nancy Reagan in 1982 continues to inspire legions of anti-drug crusaders. The bad news for the faithful is that brains continue to fry. Worse, the dream of a “Drug Free America” is exposed as a mass delusion.
With a quarter century of hindsight and mountains of evidence from clinical studies in brain research spilling out of medical and behavioral research laboratories, “Just Say No” does not work. It is incapable of working. It should have been obvious even in the 80s that a fried brain can’t say No! 
The reality of a brain damaged by chemical dependency is dramatically worse than a cracked egg in a pan. A heated pan can cool to room temperature in a few minutes. An addicted brain may be fried for life.
War on Brains
When, at the launch of the notorious War on Drugs, the United States set its sights on drugs as the enemy, it locked in on the wrong target. The war that was raging then and continues to rage now is the War on Brains
The eradication of all poppies, coca leaves and marijuana buds on the planet would be touted by drug warriors as the final victory in the War on Drugs – the coup de gras of grass.”Mission Accomplished” banners would fly over DEA compounds from DC to Helmand Province, Cochabamba and Humboldt County.
And, what about all the legal drugs? DEA’s drug commando squads can shut down all the pharmaceutical companies, empty the world’s medicine cabinets, dig up all the ginseng roots and then fly their “Mission Accomplished” banner, right? Wrong.
What if DEA agents could plug up every human orifice so that no one could shoot, snort, inhale, chew or swallow? Victory could be declared, right?
No, the problem is not the flower, leave, bud, capsule, powder, root, spray, fume or smoke. The problem is not the fermented grape or the distilled grain. The problem is not a brown bean, brewed or steamed. None of these is the enemy.
The victory banner that could be flown above the DEA headquarters, United States Capitol, White House, State Capitols, and law enforcement headquarters from DC to Mars is not “Mission Accomplished.” 
It is “Mission Aborted.”
Stop fighting drugs. The mission needs to be refocused. A new plan. A new reconceptualization needs to rise out of the spent cartridges of the failed War on Drugs. New targets. New priorities. New strategies.
What are all those cliches bureaucracies like so much? New end game. Push the envelope. Outside the Box. What do any of these mean anyway? How are they working? They need to go the way of the DEA’s fly swatter mentality. 
The new direction that is begging for attention is focused on arguably the greatest asset possessed by each human being – the brain.
So as not to lose the passion experienced in the three decades of battles in the War on Drugs, it can be valuable to rally the weary drug warriors around a new battle, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all brains are not created equal, yet each worthy of support in fighting off the adversaries that challenge the wounded, the defeated and the barely surviving.
The new War on Brains
Brains are under attack in a massive onslaught of unending bombardment. The newly formed brigades need to rally round the threatened brains. What are called for are legions of supporters, cadres of compassion, officers and foot soldiers who can be taught how to recognize the enemies, see through disguises and take action to fortify defenses and protect the left and right hemispheres of hope.
The war is more defensive than offensive, more educational than confrontational, more about engendering safety, building trust, encouragement and sharing love.
It may sound anachronistic and incongruous to speak of an army of care givers and lovers, but upon serious exploration of the best treatments for addiction, it can be clearly demonstrated that this can lead to a winning strategy and a successful outcome for individuals and for society as a whole.
To get behind the new War on Brains it may be helpful to describe the soldiers who are needed to replace DEA’s SWAT approach. Special Weapons Assault Teams need to be replaced by SWAB teams – Special Weapons Assist Brains – whose members would resemble the nuns in Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity more than black-helmeted transformers in a DEA Humvee. Rather than appearing as commandos decked out in camouflage, flack jackets and machine guns, the battalions of brain defenders would appear in white uniforms, flashing arms of blue and white bands, a la Mother Teresa’s troops, carrying compassion clips, mercy magazines and a special weapon that has been sorely lacking in the drug cops’ arsenal – KNOWLEDGE.
The army for the new war is already deployed. The troops are in the trenches. While the drug warriors voraciously consumed three decades worth of public capital and mega tons of ammunition, blowing up flowers, leaves and buds, an unseen army fought on, underfunded in hand-to-hand compact, deploying its stealth knowledge to protect vulnerable brains. 
This army of SWAB teams is made up of dedicated counselors, social workers, volunteers, nurses, practitioners and doctors working to protect brains under attack. They are at their battle stations in rehab clinics, county health offices, community counseling centers, free clinics, medical centers, hospitals and homeless shelters.
The time is long past for US drug policy to admit that it is powerless over flowers, leaves and buds. Time to park the Humvees. Dump the flak jackets. Get rid of the fly swatters. Just as the Old Testament verse about the wisdom of changing swords into plowshares became a mantra for 20th Century leaders trying to forge peace among nations, so is it time to apply the same wisdom to saving the victims of the drug wars. It is time to change SWATS into SWABS.