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Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America Enlarged Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0674005853
ISBN-10: 0674005856
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Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America + Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States, 1884-1920 (Studies in Industry and Society) + The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
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Editorial Reviews


[An] impeccably literate and acute analysis...One of the major themes of this book is that 'what we think about addiction very much depends on who is addicted.' This view is convincingly supported in a historical review that is both absorbing to read and extremely relevant to a general understanding of the social forces connected with opiate use. (Martin Plant British Medical Journal)

Dark an interesting account of the history of the use of opiates in the United States, which is relevant to any western country. Although this book would be of most interest to those in the drug and alcohol treatment and policy areas, it is important reading for anyone with an interest in the political, legal and treatment aspects of drug dependence. It shows clearly how politics play a crucial role in the sanctioning of drug use and the social effects of different approaches to addressing drug dependence...Dark Paradise is recommended reading for anyone interested in the history of opiate dependence. It is presented in a factual format, but with a human focus. Courtwright illustrates beautifully the impact of social and legislative changes on the individual with an opiate addiction while managing to avoid an emotive or "one-sided" account of events. (Sandra Sunjic Drug and Alcohol Review 2002-12-01)

About the Author

David T. Courtwright is John A. Delaney Presidential Professor at the University of North Florida.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Enlarged edition (May 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674005856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674005853
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Courtwright is known for his books on drug use and drug policy in American and world history (Dark Paradise, Addicts Who Survived, and Forces of Habit) and for his books on the special problems of frontier environments (Violent Land and Sky as Frontier). His most recent book, No Right Turn, chronicles the tumultuous politics and surprising outcome of the culture war that engulfed America in the four decades after Nixon's 1968 election.

Courtwright lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and teaches history at the University of North Florida, where he is Presidential Professor. He was educated at the University of Kansas and at Rice University.

Selected articles by David Courtwright are available at Digital Commons,

Photo credits: Shelby Miller (color) and David Wilson (black and white)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harvey C. Greisman on February 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
This original and pioneering study, which first appeared nearly thirty years ago, is still important, worthwhile, and necessary for anyone concerned with the issues discussed. Yet what disappointed then continues to do so.

The author is somewhat inconsistent in his use and evaluation of indirect and inferential evidence. He notes that official statistics are notoriously inaccurate and misleading when it comes to drug addiction. And remarks that this is nearly as true now as it was a century ago. As a corrective, he judiciously presents journalistic and epistolary examples to underscore his position. This inspired reliance on non-traditional sources adds a lot of depth and strength to the book.

It is likely that a more thorough examination of non-quanitative source material would have enhanced the discussion of opiate addiction among Civil War veterans. The so-called Army Disease was chiefly the result of widespread medical and non-medical use of opiates among those mobilized North and South, the total being close to three million, or nearly ten percent of the US population in 1860. The author neither ignores nor dismisses this, but I think he errs on the side of caution in judging the effects.

Reliance on opiates during the war was widespread and profligate. In addition to prescription by military surgeons and corpsmen, opiates were also distributed by volunteers working for the NGOs of the day in hospitals and in the field. The merchants who accompanied the armies to sell GIs tobacco, newspapers, and stationery were also sources of "patent medicines" with high opiate content.

The everyday hardships endured by enlisted men and officers were by any standard titanic.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Guy F. Airey on May 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
The author, David Courtwright, provides an updated, historical account of one of the most puzzling questions on the American frontier: how did the drug (opium) addiction get so bad here-- so quickly. Then, he fine tunes his answer with another in which he describes the absolutely harsh laws, fines, and imprisonment of those who become caught in the law enforcement cycle of addiction. He shows quite clearly how doctors and politics played sessions of sanctioning, then criminalizing some of those who played this wheel of misfortune and are still spinning in it. One person "gets" 15 years for a first offense !!! It is written quite directly and to the point, in a reader- friendly fashion, and most everyone I know would enjoy his writing method. Propaganda, lies, exaggerations are used by our government to seeingly make these wonderful medicines, a social vampire. The author is patient and almost penitent in showing how society is punished much of the same way the addicts are for their wrongdoings In an wonderful plant meant to help for chronic pain and suffering for thousands of years, we have demonized it to the point of making it a menace. In that irony, there is no justification. Very little is mentioned of the FDA or DEA and it documeted very nicely. The notes in the back are FANTASTIC!! guyairey
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Coleridge on January 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
Anyone interested in understanding the current opioid (heroin & narcotic painkillers) crisis needs to read this book. It's especially helpful for understanding how the archetype opioid addict changed over time- from the medically-addicted middle class or upper class housewife to street users of black market heroin.
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