Drugs are taboo in academia. I have been hanging out with academic-types for much of my adult life. In college I hung out with stoner-intellectual types. You all know the type. We’d all get high or drop acid and wax philosophical about the meaning of life or the mind-body problem (usually the mind-body problem – that shit gets intense on acid). But like we meant it. It was serious shit. People make fun of this “stereotype” but at the time it was the most beautiful thing ever. To this day the most beautiful mind-blowing amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my whole life have been on acid and shrooms (and I should mention the scariest worst experiences of my life have been on acid). Oh and for the record, I decided I wanted to switch majors and study philosophy/psychology right in the middle of a full-blown acid trip, a decision that impacted my entire adult life and is still effecting me to this day as I am still in a PhD program for philosophy as of writing this piece.
But after a bad acid trip that landed me in the psych ward in my early twenties I swore off “heavy” psychedelics and stuck with weed. Weed is taboo in academic philosophy but practically everyone I have ever known has either smoked it “back in the day” or continues to smoke it (but keeps it hush hush). It’s a dirty secret. And a catch 22. We all have used drugs and we all talk about drugs. But only in the right context. Not when the distinguished guest is here (unless the guest and the host are buddies). Not when you’re talking to your advisor what you did that weekend. Faculty, if they smoke, probably talk about their weed habits with other faculty (and probably smoke with them) and grad students smoke and talk about smoking with other grad students but the cross-mix of grad students smoking with faculty is very rare (but maybe with post-docs or adjunct instructors). Philosophers have this strange reputation for being “logical” and you know the stereotypes about weed…so young nervous philosophy grads with little confidence don’t like to talk about their weed smoking lest they get the reputation (god forbid) of being a “creative type” instead of a “logical type”. I should mention, for sake of journalistic integrity, that I’m 29 now and smoked weed pretty much all day everyday since I was 17 but just recently quit for sake of my wallet but also because of some mental health issues (that’s putting it lightly).
But this is just in analytic philosophy worlds. In the continental world, the stereotype is reversed and you want to be considered a little mystic and strange and cannabis definitely helps with that. Many of my best ideas and writing sessions for philosophy papers/blog posts have been fueled by cannabis. It’s a great tool for nudging out those “Euraka” moments so sought after. So in the continental philosophy world drug use is more openly discussed though of course it’s still taboo in the larger world of interacting with Deans and Grad Schools and Reputations and the Job Market and All That.
Why is drug use so taboo when many if not most academics dabble in some kind of drug? If it’s not cannabis or psychedelics it’s booze and cigs, two powerful addictive and dangerous drugs. Philosophers have a reputation for hurting their livers, puffing cigs all day, punishing themselves physically for the sake of the mind. They write their dissertations at the expense of their bodies. They go a “little crazy” – get a “little obsessive” in their quest to put more citations in their dissertation than everyone else. Those all night writing sessions are fueled by caffeine, probably the most heavily “abused” drug of all time (though of course as we know from a recent meta-analysis of 20,000 studies caffeine has no negative side effects except effecting sleep so drink up!) But drugs, in some fashion or another, power the life of academia. But few people admit to addiction. And if they do they are seen as the exception not the norm. But, in my anecdotal opinion, it is the norm. But it’s taboo. That’s the catch 22. Everyone knows about it but no one talks about it. Except ex-academics. Which begs the question: Why am I writing this piece? Stay tuned.
p.s. Politically, I should mention, I support the Legalize and Regulate model for not just cannabis but all drugs.