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Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers Revised Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1556910197
ISBN-10: 1556910193
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"This highly original and fully appropriate title, something we have come to expect from Szasz's books, heralds an excellent sociological analysis of man's past and present relationships with drugs....Szasz takes the reader through a religious scenario as imaginatively symbolic and insightfully analytic as any morality play can be." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Learning Pubns; Revised edition (June 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556910193
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556910197
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,124,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
An excellent analysis of the institutionalized and state-sponsored persecution of certain rule-breaking behaviour (illicit drug use)and the similarities between cultural and religious demands for specific mood-altering ceremonies and substances. This was the first book by Szasz that I read and I was impressed by depth of his philosophical and medical understanding of human behaviour. After reading this book I purchased, read and re-read the Myth of Mental Illness within 24 hours. Although Cermonial Chemistry was a delight to read, I think the Myth of Mental Illness is a timeless read and a comprehensive, logical and linguistic torpedo aimed squarley at an institutionalized war against human responsibility and the deep suspicion of the state against those who question through behaviour or language the role of the state in prescribing the rules of human conduct. Ceremonial Chemistry is an important book and a cornerstone in the debate on the inevitable de-criminalization of illicit drugs or the continued illegalization of certain foods and plants.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Thomas Szasz (born 1920) is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center. He is a well-known critic of psychiatry, of the social role of medicine in modern society, and is a social libertarian.

Szasz states in the Preface to this 1974 book, "My aim in this book is at once simple and sweeping. First, I wish to identify the actual occurrences that constitute our so-called drug problem. I shall show that these phenomena in fact consist of the passionate promotion and panicky prohibition of various substances; the habitual use and the dreaded avoidance of certain drugs; and, most generally, the regulation---by language, law, custom, religion, and every other conceivable means of social and symbolic control---of certain kinds of ceremonial and sumptory behaviors."

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"(W)e had no problem with drugs until we quite literally talked ourselves into having one: we declared first this and than that drug 'bad' and 'dangerous'; gave them nasty names like 'dope' and 'narcotic'; and passed laws prohibiting their use. The result: our present 'problems of drug abuse and drug addiction.'"
"(W)e oppose illicit drugs not because they are the wrong chemicals but because they are the wrong ceremonials."
"(A)lthough the physician OFTEN fails to help his obese patients, he NEVER fails to help himself---to the patient's (or insurance company's, or some other third party's) money."
"The Harrison Act, passed in 1914, aimed ostensibly at controlling addicts, was actually used to control physicians. This act ... made these drugs legally available only through a physician's prescription for the treatment of disease.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By catatat on January 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
Explains what the war on drugs is really about - and it's not drugs. Highly educational, trancends our brainwashing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this in college, it's a very interesting perspective on the drug war. Don't let this book fool you, it has some great ideas but some of his suggestions really go against scientific proof suggesting that chemical addictions don't exist.
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