Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Wondering About Rand's Amphetamine Usage

Rate this topic


emorris1000
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've always been really interested in her amphetamine (benzadrine or whatever it was) usage, particularly alongside her apparent abhorence of drugs. My guess is that she didn't consider them "drugs", which.....I dunno that's pretty short sighted and frankly kind of dumb.

Mod Note: Split from http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=22372 -Eiuol

Edited by Eiuol
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always been really interested in her amphetamine (benzadrine or whatever it was) usage, particularly alongside her apparent abhorence of drugs. My guess is that she didn't consider them "drugs", which.....I dunno that's pretty short sighted and frankly kind of dumb.

I don't think Rand ever did make the common mistake of ignoring that any body-altering substance is a drug. She probably used amphetamines because she did not see them to be mind-destroying, not because she didn't consider them drugs. Substances that can improve your mental functioning should be encouraged, and judging Rand's actions, I think she'd agree. Does anyone know about what Rand wrote about mind-altering substances in general?

Edited by Eiuol
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's in Atlas Shrugged,

Dagny loved her morning coffee and naturally smoked (lots of age specific context. i.e. in The Fountainhead a particularly annoying hostess is described as "she doesn't like women who smoke")

Also beer is gulped down by Howard Roark after a hard day's work with his newly found found; other references to casually violating laws of prohibition are found in the beginning of the novel.  

Dagny and Hank enjoy the mild buzz of the wine (several references) during their one romantic dinner, as well as the evening drink she offers Hank Rearden while living together.

However Dagny's brother is found a wreck in his bedroom surrounded by empty bottles of, I believe, Whiskey.

So, never forgetting the context in which it was written (post Prohibition pre Dyonisius decade), AS shows (as a very marginal theme) the two facets of Recreational Drugs, in this case alcohol. It can either be used to enhance life enjoyment or (ab)used to evade life altogether (sometimes by the crushing force of external circumstances such as was the end of Leo Kovalenski)

Productive-enhancement drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, are also referenced both in her novels as well as in her life. The story says that she quit two of those drugs as soon as she was presented with the evidence of their destructive power, even so, it was a value judgement not a dogmatic conditioning or appeal to authority.

Finally, medical drugs (!) like pain killers I believe she wrote about the right to euthanasia as being necessary for the right to life (she wrote that not being allowed to die if one wants to is just as immoral as being forced to die if one wants to live), obviously this extends to quality and length of life being determined by oneself and not society.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My guess is that she didn't consider them "drugs", which.....I dunno that's pretty short sighted and frankly kind of dumb.

That's a pretty strong assessment without providing a source for why it was formed. Why do you "guess"? Without citing any sources, I'd say Eiuol's is more consistent with her publicly available work and the kind of person who would make such work. Edited by JASKN
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, here's my basis for assessment.

1) She made statements saying that "drugs" were bad:

It is the moral responsibility of the individual not to take substances that destroy his mind. I would fight for your legal right to use marijuana; I would fight you to the death that you morally should not do it....

2) She used amphetamines, which means she didn't put them in this category.  The argument that it's a "productive" drug and not a brain numbing/destroying drug seems a likely justification for this.  However:

3) Amphetamines DO destroy the mind.  I simply don't buy all the stuff about it being a "productive" drug.  Sure, in the short run, absolutely it is.  In the long run (meaning 1 year or so of use), it will begin to have severe neurological effects that most self aware people will recognize.

It's kind of like red-lining an engine.  Yeah, it will give you some extra oomph.  But its destroying the engine.

To be honest I think that her amphetamine use may have contributed to some of the overtly poor writing in Atlas Shrugged (like the repetitive speeches and overly dramatic pacing.)

I'll admit that its subjective whether it was dumb or not, but....I dunno.  If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.  And anyone using amphetamines should have realized that.

Edit: Here's a good quote on the subject from her essay Apollo and Dinoysus:

Is there any doubt that drug addiction is an escape from an unbearable inner state, from a reality one cannot deal with, from an atrophying mind one can never fully destroy? If Apollonian reason were unnatural to man, and Dionysian "intuition" brought him closer to nature and truth, the apostles of irrationality would not have to resort to drugs. Happy, self-confident men do not seek to get "stoned."Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene an evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.
Edited by emorris1000
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm saying that she might not have known the ways amphetamines destroy the mind, and that's about all I can say. Anything else is pure speculation about if she was being hypocritical or short-sighted. Rand made statements that substances which destroy the mind are bad, but I don't think she made statements which indicated she made the simplistic mistake to say "all drugs are bad" (not all drugs destroy the mind). That doesn't mean she knew which drugs are mind-destroyers. The second quote you mentioned mentions drug addiction, not drugs in general. I don't think you could say Rand wrote poorly because of amphetamine use; anything you dislike about that I'd bet is more applicable to writing styles of the time period.

(this is very indirectly related to the OP, and since it's more than a month old I'm going to split it)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

True, it is speculation.

The writing comment is also speculation, and you could be right that it's a matter of the writing style of the time. But there's something about Atlas Shrugged as compared to The Fountainhead or Anthem. Specifically with the speeches. It reminds me of how a person under the influence of meth will repeatedly perform the same task over and over again trying to find perfection, while ignoring the fact that the repetition actually hurts the quality of whatever it is being repeated.

Edit: maybe its just me, but do you guys know what I am talking about with regards to the writing? There's something...manic about it.

I guess it really all is speculation though.

Edited by emorris1000
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Edit: maybe its just me, but do you guys know what I am talking about with regards to the writing? There's something...manic about it.

When I first read Atlas Shrugged, I also thought it was a little repetitive (I wouldn't have attributed it to drug use, then or now), but that was almost ten years ago, so I'm not sure if it would come across that way if I read it again now.

When I first read Rand's non-fiction, however, I thought there was a heavy authoritarian-type style. Reading writing of Rand's these days, though, I don't get that vibe at all. Instead, it just reads as very concise. But that first time, I was just beginning to reject religion -- any ideas expressed with conviction by anyone seemed authoritarian to me. In that case, it was most definitely "just me." For this reason I suspect I might re-read Atlas Shrugged and not notice any supposed repetition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The speech certainly came across to me as repetitive, and seemed to go "thud" in the middle of a novel. Take a 70 page break from the narrative to preach! I wondered why it couldn't be shorter.

Having read the outline provided in "Essays on Atlas Shrugged" and then validated it by following along when I re-read AS a couple of years ago, I now see that the irony is, the apparent repetition, contributing to the "overlong" feeling, is due to the fact that the speech was put into a novel! It was necessary for Galt to address the looters, the false intellectuals, and the good people in turn, revisiting the major points from the perspective of each. Ayn Rand could have cut the thing in half if it were merely a systematic layout of Objectivism, but instead it's in the context of a novel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not talking about the John Galt speech, I mean, ok maybe I am to a degree (last time I "read" Atlas Shrugged it was a book on tape, that section was like 2 hours long).

More its the litte one page/one paragraph epiphones/realizations that the characters had. They all had this "he slowly began to understand the true nature of the enemy in front of him." and then would go into a thing about the looters etc. Except that the same character would "slowly begin to understand" the same point over and over again.

I guess we're well off the original topic at the moment, so I'll attempt to steer it back with this quesiton:

What responsibility is it for the imbiber of a substance (that is not considered by "experts" to be a drug) to take it upon themselves to determine its deliterious effects? Or, can you plead ignorance as a defence? Like back in the days when 9 out of 10 doctors agreed that Lucky Strikes were good for you, or that a little of the magical cocaine syrup was a health elixir.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I have a similiar question, which I think fits into the original topic of this thread: Is it ethical to smoke?

I know some people who claim cigarettes are "amphetamines" because they boost concentration and focus..yet, there are many more who claim it's harmful and toxic habit. I haven't done a lot of (scientific) research on smoking, but I am well aware of all the media/educational efforts to curb it. These include tv commercials/ads/articles that say smoking (nicotine + carbon monoxide) causes cancer, heart disease, birth defects, etc.

I recently watched "Thank You for Smoking" & read some similiar articles, and was kind of shocked to find out that a lot of these anti-smoking commercials/ads are actually created by tobacco companies. Given all this propaganda, just how harmful is smoking?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Michelle, Obviously directly breathing burnt organic matter is going to be harmful, no doubt about it. However the warning might be disproportionate. Just recently my attitude towards tobacco was drastically changed by the tabloids, example

"Sitting can be more dangerous than smoking, study shows" and 2

Most of the anti-smoking ads/articles seem more and more like media-hysteria. I'm wondering just how disproportionate the warning is. :o

Thanks for those articles. It's funny that they mentioned the TrekDesk! I'm not sure I would be able to work + workout at the same time, but it's a cool invention nonetheless. I think it's kind of hard to find the motivation to workout before/after work if your hours are weird. It's really something to think about before getting into a field: "will I be sitting around 10+ hours a day?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also think that moderating our intake of any drug whether as a pill or coffee, or inhalant etc is essential. For instance, Ritalin can help one study or write a paper, Propranolol can help one with stage fright during public speaking, Ativan can help with anxiety experienced while flying. Cost versus benefit needs to be weighed objectively for he prospective user. Ayn Rand probably used Dexamyl to assist in her writing and speaking of Objectivism in that it helped her mind coalesce her ideas together well and clearly. If you think about it, every action and reaction in life takes place on a chemical level. From atoms to DNA to single cells and neurons, there is a constant chemical interplay occuring.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's kind of hard to find the motivation to workout before/after work if your hours are weird. It's really something to think about before getting into a field: "will I be sitting around 10+ hours a day?"

I sympathize. I sometimes put my laptop on a dresser to be able to type while standing, but still...

The interesting part of these studies is that it's to some point corroborated by those Sardinian and Georgian(Caucasus) women who live until 120+ and still smoke, but spend every day of their lives tending their vegetable gardens, cooking for their grand children, climbing rocky paths....

Okinawa women, I don't know whether they smoke.

Edited by volco
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...