Ayn Rand on Drugs

CANNABIS CULTURE – After saying that Ayn Rand was required reading for all his interns, and his biggest influence for getting into politics, GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan has now said he enjoyed Rand’s novels but rejects her atheistic philosophy.

That’s too bad, because Rand opposed drug prohibition, although she called taking drugs “suicide” and said marijuana “destroys the mind.” At least, so says a web search.

According to the book Ayn Rand Answers by Robert Mayhew (Penguin, 2005) as quoted by OnTheIssues.org, Rand said,

I do not approve of any government controls over consumption, so all restrictions on drugs should be removed (except, of course, on the sale to minors). The government has no right to tell an adult what to do with his own health and life. That places a much greater moral responsibility on the individual; but adults should be free to kill themselves in any way they want.

I would fight for your legal right to use marijuana; I would fight you to the death that you morally should not do it, because it destroys the mind. What the government should do is protect citizens from the criminal consequences of those who take drugs. But drugs would be much cheaper if it weren’t for government.

Rand can be heard on tape saying, “I think drugs should be sold openly because it is an individual’s right to commit suicide if he wants to … If drugs were sold legally, that would put that whole underworld and all the drug addicts as pushers out of business.”

The Daily Kos quotes Wikipedia quoting Jennifer Burns’s book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press, 2009) with this tasty nugget:

While completing her second novel (The Fountainhead), Rand began taking the prescription amphetamine Benzedrine to fight fatigue. … Her continued use of it for several decades also may have contributed to volatile mood swings observed by her associates in later years.

The Rand Watch blog explored the theme for a 2010 story, “Was Ayn Rand a Drug Addict?”, which says,

In addition to her indisputable addiction to nicotine (she was a chain smoker) there’s no question that Ayn Rand was a habitual consumer of amphetamines starting in 1942, when she was prescribed Benzedrine for weight loss (a common medical practice in that era) and discovered that it gave her the energy to put in the long hours needed to finish the first of her two major novels, The Fountainhead. Rand liked the boost that ‘speed’ gave her, and from that time until at least 1972 – a period of 30 years – she continued to use amphetamines, moving on to Dexedrine and Dexamyl.

Judging from the way they spun their lies in convention speech after speech, Republicans will have no trouble spinning away Ryan’s admiration for that godless speed freak Ayn Rand with her wild ideas on everything but the economic policies that favor his tax bracket.

Rand also said, “I am certainly in favor of abortion … I’d like to express my indignation at the idea of confusing a living human being with an embryo … The idea of some bitches – and I don’t apologize for that – trying to prescribe to all other women what they should do with their lives is disgusting. And they call it a right to life!” I’m guessing the GOP won’t be adopting that moral stance either.

Jennifer Burns appeared on The Colbert Report on August 29 and called Rand’s writings “the gateway drug” for the New Right. Burns said the last thing Rand wrote was a denunciation of Ronald Reagan. Too bad Ayn’s not around to give her opinion on Ryan. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, a band who Ryan says he admires, has written an eloquent response in Rolling Stone. Wait until everyone from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin have their say.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com and blogs at Tokin Woman.



  1. Anonymous on

    But what if I told you of a religion where you only worshiped yourself and everything and everyone else came second. Wouldn’t that be appealing?

    It wouldn’t be good if everyone were entirely selfish, but as long as it works for the one that are, what does it matter?

    You just dismiss anything that doesn’t fit your model of ignorance. So much bliss in only having to worry about yourself. This is what rich people do, and just look at the freedom they have?

  2. Anonymous on

    In America, freedom mostly means the freedom to have one’s labor exploited by the capitalist class. Our social and economic policy is written to favor the elite, and most of the workers have been fooled into thinking that the interests of the rich are also in their own best interest. It is not. Class consciousness is not about jealousy, it’s about justice. The private ownership of land and capital is theft of the commons.

  3. Robert Allison on

    some ppl like me are afraid of religion, because of blind faith. it lacks truth and that is frightening. OTHERS , are afraid of the truth , and when confronted with it , deny and make no understanding on purpose. because of that choice , they become afraid of what they do not understand. WE ALL KNOW THIS. but who of us “Hear” , and who of us “Listen”.

  4. JackDoitCrawford on

    Is it reason, rights, or freedom you find frightening?

  5. JackDoitCrawford on

    As I understand it she also quit smoking as soon as her doctor told her it was bad for her. So much for her ‘addiction’ problem in that realm.

  6. Harry Binswanger on

    I was a close friend of Ayn Rand in her later years. The dexedrine issue is a red-herring. She took a small daily dose under doctor’s prescription. I visited her in her hospital in 1981 and she showed me the dexedrine pills that she had been given in the hospital. She wasn’t taking them–she said she was “hoarding” them, which I took to mean to have a secure supply when she went home (since the drug is so highly regulated).

    The fact that she was able to go off them so easily suggests to me that she was not addicted.

    By the way, she told me that she took them (it was no secret) for weight control. She made no mention of any energizing effect.

    But you are quite right that Objectivism staunchly opposes any government control on the manufacture, sale, possession, and imbibing of drugs. Objectivism advocates the right to act on your own judgment, as long as you do not initiate physical force against another (which would be violating his rights).

  7. Misterioso on

    I find the phrase ‘rather frightening’ to be an oxymoron and rather flimsy, like the reference to ‘the rest of her message.’

  8. BigBudAl on

    That’s all and well about Drug Prohibition but I find the rest of her message is rather frightening