Know your Drugs

This was published in Kindred, Issue 27, as part of the ‘Raising Drug-Free Kids’ special feature. See also From Harry Potter to Pot by the same author.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) employs an entirely different approach to understanding the human body than Western medicine. It makes no distinction between body, mind and spirit and it has a vocabulary capable of describing aspects of drugs and what their effects are on the body. Through the perspective of TCM, each drug has a different property and works via a particular organ—the organ acting as the drug’s platform. Quality of life is dependent on the effective functioning of the organs. Drugs temporarily and artificially enhance the function of organs and produce emotional, physiological and spiritual states in accord with the true nature of the organ. Below is a short list of some of the most popular drugs and their properties.


Marijuana has a magnifying property and it operates primarily via the liver. The liver is responsible for a smooth flow of Chi (energy) throughout the body. So, under the influence of marijuana, you can get a heightened awareness of the Chi flowing. The emergence of what you think are brilliant ideas when you are stoned, or feeling more creative, occurs because the magnifying property of marijuana has also allowed an increased awareness of ‘birth, growth and expansion’, which are considered in TCM to be qualities associated with the liver.
Everyone has a mental picture of who they are, of who they want to be and what they want to do in life. In TCM this is directly connected with the liver. If you repeatedly take a substance that has a direct impact on the functioning of the liver, as marijuana does, it can create an imbalance between your visions or ideas, and the impetus to act upon them.


Ecstasy (MDMA) is an unusual drug. Its chemical structure bears similarities to both the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. Ecstasy is sometimes categorised as an entactogen—which means ‘touching within’ and, like all the other recreational drugs, it was developed for therapeutic use.

Ecstasy targets the heart and the spleen. In TCM the heart is the organ responsible for excitement, joy and love and the spleen is the organ responsible for mental clarity. The spleen also transforms and transports thoughts.

When you take ecstasy, the joyful expression of loving thoughts takes top priority. All your deep-seated emotions are transformed and transported by fluid thoughts or actions. Ecstasy shows you the qualities of the heart and spleen—how loving, expressive and caring you can be. This is why you can communicate with people in a way you couldn’t or wouldn’t without the drug.

But unlike the therapeutic context, in which the drug is administered in a very low dose by a professional who then guides the process, in the recreational context the dose is much, much higher and although you may initially feel inspired or uplifted, euphoric drug experiences are always followed by the opposite emotional states of emptiness or depression.


‘Speed’, or methamphetamine, is now the most commonly abused illicit drug after cannabis. It is a stimulant but rather than being natural it is a derivative of amphetamine. It was widely prescribed in the 1950s and ’60s as a treatment for depression and obesity. But in the context of recreational drug-taking, speed does much more than that: it can make you feel that you are spiritually, emotionally and physically perfect, a ‘master of the universe’.

Speed gets you high by exploiting your inner energy, or ‘Jing’, which eventually makes you feel really bad. Jing is the life force given to us during conception and later during delivery. Jing is the raw energy or fuel for all our physical and emotional activities. The rush from a drug like speed comes from a massive free flow of energy through your body but this is fuelled by your own Jing, not the drug.

Because speed draws energy from Jing rather than from nutritional food and drink that has been converted into energy, there is no hunger stimulus (this is why amphetamines are used in many diet drugs) and regular speed-users rarely eat. This accelerates the development of serious side effects.

Published in Kindred, Issue 27

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