-- AN  ONLINE  PUBLICATION --


                     A VIEW FROM CANADA

               Bruce K. Alexander, Ph.D. (1)


     I think that future historians will classify the 
American anti-drug propaganda of the 19th and 20th centuries 
in the same category as the hyperbole of earlier witch-hunts 
and crusades.  I think they will put the American-dominated 
scientific drug literature in the same category as the 
technically brilliant but hopelessly entangled medieval 
debates on the properties of angels.  On the other hand, I 
think future historians may be impressed by the American 
common sense philosophers of these same centuries, including 
Henry David Thoreau, Samuel Clemens or "Mark Twain", Will 
Rogers, and, more recently, Wendell Berry (1992).  These 
sages made illuminating observations on practically 
everything, including drugs.  Their genius lay in stating 
complex arguments in plain language and with irresistible 
good humor.  The analysis that follows is inspired by the 
writing of Mark Twain (1835-1910) (2).

    Mark Twain's writings on tobacco were complex, engaging,
and wise, i.e., the antithesis of propaganda.  Please note
that, whereas I am using Mark Twain here to unmask
the strident oversimplifications of anti-tobacco propaganda,
I am not launching into an argument in favour of tobacco,
but rather an argument against drug propaganda of all sorts.

     Speaking on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1905,
Mark Twain, having survived a fair portion of the 19th
century, observed that it was common for people of his
awesome longevity to preach about their personal habits, and
for their listeners to emulate them in their own lives.  He
thought the first part of this was reasonable enough and
proceeded to hold forth on the topic of his own habits, but
he cautioned against any emulation.  He put it this way:

          I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way:
     by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would
     kill anybody else.  It sounds like an exaggeration, but
     that is really the common rule for attaining old age.
     When we examine the programme of any of these garrulous
     old people we always find that the habits which have
     preserved them would have decayed us...I will offer
     here as a sound maxim...That we can't reach old age by
     another man's road.
          (Mark Twain 1905/1963, p. 471).

     He then proceeded to describe his various personal
habits, including his moderate consumption of alcohol, his
practice of skipping lunch, and others.  Of most importance
here was his smoking.  He smoked enough to induce apoplexy
in today's anti-smoking propagandists.  In his words:

          I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one
     cigar at a time.  I have no other restriction as
     regards  smoking.  I do not know just when I began to
     smoke, I only know that it was in my father's lifetime
     and that I was discreet.  He passed from this life
     early in 1847, when I  was a shade past eleven; ever
     since then I have smoked publicly.  As an example to
     others, and not that I care for  moderation myself, it
     has always been my [practice] never to smoke when
     asleep and never to refrain when awake.  It is a good
     [practice].  I mean, for me, but some of you know
     quite well that it wouldn't answer for everybody that's
     trying to get to be seventy.
          I smoke in bed until I have to go to sleep; I wake
     up  in the night, sometimes once, sometimes twice,
     sometimes  three times, and I never waste any of these
     opportunities  to smoke . . . I will grant, here, that
     I have stopped smoking now and then, for a few months
     at a time, but it  was not on  principle, it was . .
     .to pulverize those critics who said I was a slave to
     my habits and couldn't break my bonds. . . . To-day it
     is all of sixty years that I began to smoke the limit
    (pp. 471-472).

     Throughout his speech, Mark Twain re-iterated the point
that nobody should emulate either his moderate consumption
of alcohol, his immoderate consumption of tobacco, nor his
total abstinence in the matter of lunch if it was bad for
their own health, and that they themselves were the best
judge of that.  More surprising perhaps, it is clear from
the speech as a whole that he was not merely saying that he
had survived to a ripe old age in spite of his smoking, but
rather that he had survived in part because of his smoking.

     This requires a few moments for reflection, given the
current propaganda and scientific claims surrounding drugs,
including tobacco, and so I will return to Mark Twain after
I have undertaken a bit of hatchet work on the scientific
drug literature.

     I feel comfortable attacking the American scientific
drug literature because it has frequently given me attacks
of outrage, causing occasional insomnia and not a few grey
hairs over the years.  Whatever harm my puny rhetoric might
inflict on it could only go part way towards righting the
balance.  I characterize this literature as American,
because American professional journals set the critical
standards, American granting agencies fund most of it and
thus determine its direction, and American researchers do
most of the work.

     I am not sure how this body of writing first came to be
called a "literature" or why it is accepted as "scientific",
since it has little in common with either literature or
science as they are known in other contexts.  It lacks any
trace of literary style or charm and it has no core
scientific paradigm.  It is not even good bedtime reading--I
find that rather than being soporific it induces tension and
disquiet.  When I first faced up to all this shocking truth,
I naturally assumed that the fascinating articles that I had
myself contributed to the scientific drug literature were
exceptions.  Then I met other people who shared my dismal
view of the whole literature, with the exception of their
contributions to it, but with the inclusion of mine.  This
wrecked my original analysis, which was a vain one, but I
believe that I understand it better now.

     In this literature is found the work of a lot of good
thinkers and researchers who are vastly outnumbered and
outgunned by the champions of an outmoded but culturally
powerful way of thinking.  The culturally powerful way of
thinking was laid out by the 19th century temperance
movement, in a number of countries, but most flamboyantly
and persuasively in the United States (see Taylor, 1966;
Kobler, 1973; Alexander, 1990).  This way of thinking has
become a part of American culture, and thereby world culture
in the 20th century.  It has been propounded by the American
government with particular intensity since the 1960s,
although it began at the start of the 19th century.  Harry 
Levine (1992) has described the United States and a few other 
countries in the world, including Canada, as "temperance 
cultures".  I will here refer to the way that temperance 
cultures think about drugs as a "temperance mentality".

     Because the temperance mentality has enormous
institutional support among those who fund drug research in
the United States, the bulk of the research in the
scientific drug literature conforms to its assumptions.
Good researchers are of course constantly deviating in a
variety of directions, seeking to develop new paradigms, but
they can't get anywhere.

     They get nowhere because whenever they produce research
that contradicts the temperance mentality, the temperance
champions, who comprise the large majority of researchers, 
will claim that they are incoherent and their arguments 
unfounded or, more likely, will ignore their existence.  But 
since the premises of the temperance mentality grew from a 
moral ideology rather than scholarly inquiry, and since these 
premises have been in large part discredited empirically, the 
temperance mentality cannot qualify as a research paradigm 
either.  Without a paradigm, no real scientific community can 
develop.  Thus, the temperance mentality comprises a huge 
obstacle to the process by which science ideally develops.  
Naturally the emotional tone in such a frustrating and 
unproductive state is uncivil; ideas outside one's familiar 
domain are treated with disdain or, more likely, ignored.

     Some people want to represent this unhappy condition as
typical of science in general, but that is merely wishful
thinking.  The so-called scientific drug literature does not
have anything remotely like the credible theoretical core of
"normal science" as it exists in biology (Mayr, 1982),
chemistry, or physics (Kuhn, 1970).  Nor is it built around
a civil vulnerability to falsification that is often taken
as the defining characteristic of science (Popper, 1959).

     What is this temperance mentality and what gives it
such power?  I will try to shed some light on these
questions by summarizing some recent research by my
colleagues and myself (Alexander & van de Wijngaart, 1997;
Alexander et al., 1998).

     From Benjamin Rush's writings at the beginning of the
19th century (Benjamin Rush, 1790; 1805/1947; 1819), until
the prohibition era in the 1920s there was a remarkable
uniformity in the temperance view of alcohol in the United
States.  Of course there were people who opposed this
moralistic, abstemious view of alcohol -- they were called
"wets" -- but there were more "drys" and the temperance
mentality was the dominant vision for many decades.  My
colleagues and I have summarized the premises and themes
from original temperance sources (Chenery, 1890; Chiniquy
1847;  Kellogg, 1926; Rush, 1790; 1805/1847; 1819; Spence
1919; Wooley & Johnson 1903) and from historical accounts of
the temperance movement (Aaron & Musto, 1981; Ajzenstadt,
1992; Blocker 1976, 1989; Clark 1976; Gusfield 1963; Hiebert
1963; Kobler, 1973; Levine, 1978; 1984; 1992; Noel 1987;
Rumbarger, 1989; Smart & Ogborne, 1986).

     Although the language of temperance writing was
moralistic and accusatory, its claims were coherent.  The
two most fundamental temperance premises were: 1) alcohol
use was the primary causes of society's problems including
sexual promiscuity, violence, family dissolution, labour and
racial unrest, insanity, illness, child abuse, atheism,
addiction, and, sometimes, the imminent downfall of
civilization itself and, 2) universal abstinence would
greatly reduce these problems and was achievable through
certain temperance remedies.  Prohibition is the remedy that
is now most often associated with the temperance movement,
but temperance advocates had many other remedies in mind as
well, which we could classify under contemporary headings of
education, prevention, and treatment (e.g., Orford, 1985,
ch. 14).

     Apart from these fundamental premises, there were
other themes that consistently flowed in the temperance
mainstream.  For example, throughout two centuries of
temperance, drugs could always be divided into two groups,
"good" and "bad".  The original bad drug was distilled
spirits, but others were gradually added to the list
beginning with beer and wine, opium, morphine, cocaine,
heroin, marijuana, and so forth.  The list of bad drugs
eventually became immense but the basic claim about bad
drugs never changed.  They were individually and
collectively responsible for all that was wrong in
civilization and, between them, there was not a single
redeeming virtue.  Their worth could not be compared
on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, for they had no
benefits whatsoever, for anybody, ever.  For example, a
great deal of Benjamin Rush's writing was devoted to showing
that alcohol had no value under any circumstances.  To do
this, he set about systematically contradicting centuries of
folk knowledge (Benjamin Rush, 1790, 1805/1947, 1819).  
Another idea that became standard as the temperance movement
progressed was that users of drugs were "out of control", as
if possessed by a demon.  Recreational or medicinal use of a
bad drug was impossible.

     As the 19th century progressed, the temperance claims
were extended from ardent spirits to other drugs.  This has
continued to the present.  In the pronouncements of the
recent American "Drug Czars" and dozens of other mainstream,
hard-line anti-drug works, some peripheral details change
but the fundamental temperance claims remain untouched
(e.g., DuPont, 1998).  However, examined critically, these
recent sources offer no stronger evidence for these claims
about a myriad of drugs than those proffered for the
original temperance claims about alcohol.

     Further, the pronouncements of the more liberal figures
in current American drug debate comprise a softened form of
the same temperance message.  It takes a bit of demonstration
to show this, because the liberal proponents of American
drug policy generally think of themselves radically shifting
the emphasis, for example, from "supply reduction" to
"demand reduction", from a "justice model" to a "public
health model", from "prohibition" to "harm reduction" and so
forth.  A little examination of the literature that supports
these changes, however, uncovers the temperance mentality,
largely intact (Alexander, unpublished).  It is necessary to
remember that the temperance movement was not only about
prohibition, but had strong ideas about education,
prevention, and treatment as well.

     Although it is far from universal, the temperance
mentality, with respect to both alcohol and illicit drugs,
is still taken very seriously by a significant portion of
the population of the United States.  I know this from
many heated discussions on drug issues that I have had with
Americans.  I hope to illustrate it quantitatively, using
the responses of university students to a Temperance
Mentality Questionnaire (TMQ) that my colleagues and I
administered to nearly 2,000 students in the United States
and six other countries.

     The TMQ was designed to measure adherence to the ideas
espoused by the temperance movement about alcohol, and
adherence to those same ideas when applied to currently
illicit drugs.  The test includes 50 items that we derived
from 19th and early 20th century North American Temperance
literature and from historical accounts of that same era
(sources cited above).  Each item on the questionnaire can
be documented with quotes from these historical sources
(Burt and Nijdam, unpublished).

     The language of the TMQ was modernized somewhat,
primarily by replacing archaic words and phrases like
"ardent spirits" and "drunkard" with more modern equivalents
like "liquor" or "alcoholic" and by changing some of the
references from alcohol to currently illicit drugs.

     Multivariate statistics show clearly that the students
do not respond to the temperance items independently, but as
if they formed a coherent whole.  That is, each student
tended to either agree with most items, disagree with most
of them, or respond to them with a consistent neutrality
(Alexander et al., 1998).  The widespread acceptance of the
temperance mentality in the United States, relative to other
western countries, is illustrated by the student data in
Table 1. In this analysis, the students in each sample are
classified according to their overall acceptance of the TMQ
items, rejection of them, or neutrality towards them.

Table 1.

City, country              accept    neutral    reject

Teheran, Iran               87.4      11.9        0.7
Paisii, Bulgaria            82.2      17.8        0.0
Lawton, Oklahoma, USA       69.2      28.4        2.4
Seattle, Washington, USA    46.4      50.0        3.4
Bologna, Italy              36.3      58.6        5.1
Dublin, Ireland             35.4      61.6        3.0
Vancouver, Canada           31.8      57.7       11.0
Ottawa, Canada              21.5      68.1       10.4
Utrecht, Netherlands        19.5      67.3       13.2

     Relative to students from Italy, Ireland, English and
French Canada, and the Netherlands, a relatively high
percentage of the American students accept the temperance
mentality.  Acceptance of the temperance mentality was even
higher in two non-western countries, Iran and Bulgaria.
This last, unexpected result is discussed at length
elsewhere (Alexander, et al., 1998).

     Does the widespread acceptance of the temperance
mentality in the United States and elsewhere influence drug
policy and, more important for present purposes, does it
affect the scientific drug literature?  It seems obvious to
many social scientists that the temperance mentality does
influence drug policy (e.g., Heath, 1996; DeGrandpre, 1996;
Wagner, 1997).  If a majority of people really believe that
alcohol or the illicit drugs have the demonic qualities that
the temperance mentality attributes to them, and have no
benefits for any users, then abstemious policy is merely
common sense.  Only the staunchest libertarians would
advocate anything other than abstinence for a substance
that, even in small doses taken by normal people, causes
incurable addiction, deforms babies, induces violence,
causes fatal heart attacks, and threatens to annihilate
western civilization.  If the claims of the temperance
mentality are true, it would make no more sense to tolerate
the sale of drugs than to tolerate the sale of plutonium or
the AIDS virus.

     Research seems to me no less influenceable than public
policy.  Governments, university boards, and research
foundations established by large corporations powerfully
influence research through grant money, ethics committees,
hiring policies in universities, awards, subsidies for
professional publications, and so forth (Danziger, 1990).
Government and big business are, at this juncture foursquare
behind the temperance mentality as applied to illicit drugs.

     Researchers, of course, pride themselves on being
irascible, independent-minded characters, but this does
render them immune to the laws of reinforcement or natural
selection.  An illustration of the controlling influence of
the temperance mentality on research comes from a study of
articles submitted to a professional society on the topic of
cocaine taken _in utero_.  This study was conducted by
researchers in Toronto (Koren et al., 1989).  It showed
clearly that articles on the effects of _in utero_ cocaine
administration were likely to be accepted if they confirmed
the temperance presupposition that drugs in any quantity are
harmful to unborn children and that they were unlikely to be
accepted if they did not.  In many cases, articles with
inferior methodology by normal research standards were
selected over those with better methodology, but the wrong
conclusions.  I believe that all professional researchers
can testify to the operation of influences of this sort.

     Obviously, undue influence of the temperance mentality
does not constitute proof that all temperance claims are
false or that no drug problems exist.  Again, Mark Twain
is a good source of a balanced perspective.

     On the one hand, his 70th birthday speech made it clear
that he rejected some of the temperance claims totally.  He
was himself a moderate user of alcohol, and he allowed that
other people might find heavier use than his to be a healthy
practice in their lives.  He maintained that his totally
immoderate smoking had helped him to attain old age,
although he acknowledged that it might have killed somebody
else.  Note how far he was from temperance doctrine at this
point.  Within the temperance mentality, it might be
admitted that he lived beyond age 70 _in spite of_
very heavy smoking.  But Mark Twain said that he survived to
old age _because_ of his smoking.

     This proposition runs far beyond the simplistic
temperance assumption that all drugs can be divided into
the universally good and the universally bad.  It suggests
that people can and do make complex informed decisions about
using and not using drugs, and that everybody should not make 
the same decisions.  It also suggests that the effect of 
tobacco on longevity might be strongly affected by some of 
its psychological effects which are more idiosyncratic than 
the physical harm that it does to the cardiovascular system.  
In other words, in his modest way, Mark Twain was providing 
the impetus for a complex analysis, whereas the temperance 
mentality only pushes science toward the justification (or 
sometimes repudiation) of its simplistic slogans.  Cynthia 
Pomerleau (1997) and others have conducted research that 
suggests why smoking can be life sustaining for some people.  
However, as long as the temperance mentality exercises its 
hegemony in the scientific drug literature, such research 
remains marginalized.

     On the other hand, however, Mark Twain did not advocate
a totally laissez-faire attitude towards drugs.  This
emerges clearly in an article entitled "The Temperance
Crusade and Women's Rights" (Mark Twain, 1873/1963).  In
this article, he comments on a new cultural phenomenon that
was sweeping the United States in 1873.  Tightly organized
bands of women were gathering on the sidewalks outside of
saloons and praying conspicuously, around the clock, until
the saloon was forced out of business.  Mark Twain noted
that this activity was illegal and a nuisance.  He also
opined that the women were a bit credulous in attributing
their success in closing bars to divine intervention.  If
God was shutting down the bars, he ventured, the ladies
could just at well have done their praying at home.

     However, Mark Twain thought, on balance, that this
temperance activity was justified.  He pointed out that the
women involved were generally admirable, well-respected
people.  He also noted that many of them had husbands or
sons who were squandering their time and money in the
saloons to no good purpose.  Finally, he noted that the
women wouldn't have to rely on divine intervention or
obstructing traffic at all if they were allowed to vote for
the kind of laws that would impose sensible limitations on
the sale of booze.  He ends his article, however, with some
harsh words for the male ministers who were joining the
women's temperance efforts and building a grand metaphysical
and institutional structure upon them.  He suggested that
such men would do better to stay in church and preach at
people to obey the law.

     Thus, although Mark Twain was not a temperance zealot,
he was not libertarian either.  In his complex analysis,
the judgement about using drugs would be achieved by a kind
of dynamic tension between people's understandings of their
own needs and the sentiments of their families and their
close society.  He appeared to draw a sharp distinction 
between the normal human impulse to press for temperate use 
of drugs among one's close relatives and the "temperance" 
doctrine that meant to impose abstinence on the world.

     It seems to me that Mark Twain was miles ahead of both
the propagandistic and scientific components of today's
drug literature.  I don't mean to suggest that the rest of
us drug researchers should give up.  Rather, I think that
Mark Twain's keen, humane observations offer us a renewed
inspiration for re-examining our directions.  Should 
pharmacologists not be investigating the question of
how the same drugs that kill some people might keep others
alive, if this is truly so?  Should sociologists not be
exploring the possibility that local forms of social control
might be helpful in dealing with drug problems even though
national and international drug "wars" have clearly failed?

     Finally, I hope that this article does not sound anti-
American.  I have reached a stage in my life at which I am
weary of condemning the evils of the great and terrible
country of my birth.  I would prefer to celebrate its unique
genius.  Part of its genius lies in its common sense
philosophers, and it might be in them that we find a
wellspring that will refresh our inquiry now, when it is so
intellectually parched.  Perhaps Americans do not need to
turn to the English or the Dutch for enlightened
alternatives to their bankrupt drug policies, but to their
own rich cultural history.  On the largest scale, perhaps a
Renaissance of good American common sense is not beyond

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1. My perspective is doubtlessly colored by the fact that I 
am a Canadian who grew up in the United States.  As a young 
adult, I could not reconcile myself to the American War in 
Vietnam.  I left the United States permanently in 1970 and 
became a Canadian citizen in 1975.  However, I have never 
forgotten the special warmth and color of American culture.  
In view of all this, I am perhaps unusually sensitive both to 
harmful American policies and to redeeming virtues.
2.  A tip of the hat to Stanton Peele (1989, p. 39) for
making me think about Mark Twain in the first place.

Bruce K. Alexander, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.  His
e-mail address is balexander@arts.sfu.ca.