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Intoxicating Minds: How Drugs Work 1st Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231120166
ISBN-10: 0231120168
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Irish pharmacologist Regan investigates different classes of psychoactive drugs, explaining their effects on the brain and giving a brief history of their use. In addition to illegal drugs, he covers those used to treat mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Regan is particularly interested in memory how it is chemically and electrically created, stored, and deleted from our brains and goes into far more depth than many similar titles regarding the effects drugs have on the brain. Unfortunately, he tries to cover too much in the space allotted. It is difficult to discern the intended audience. The introduction claims it was written for general readers, but the book is a bit too dry and academic; neither does it have the depth or references to be considered scholarly. This reviewer has long been fascinated with the historical and cultural significance of intoxication yet found herself yawning throughout. For specialized drug collections only. Eris Weaver, Redwood Health Lib., Petaluma, CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Fascinating! A delightful read!


Regan provides a relatively accessible overview of psychoactives, their development, and the way they reconfigure brain chemistry. Bringing anthropology and history into the discussion, the author argues with some force that mind-altering agents have had an impact on 'the evolution of societies.'


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1 edition (August 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231120168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231120166
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,635,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By dr_sasp on October 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Intoxicating minds is exactly what the title suggests: a text about brain drugs and drugged brains. Mind-bending drugs are the order of the day, including those used to bend the mind back to "normal" and those used so commonly that their effects are taken for granted. The whole gamut of psychoactive pharmacology is sampled and discussed: alcohol and nicotine, uppers and downers, hallucinogens and psychedelics, and tea and coffee.
This book comes with a good pedigree. As so often promised by brain-book blurb, it is written by a leading brain researcher, Professor Ciaran Regan. Regan discusses the effects, pharmacology and historical context of a varied range of drugs in a clear, accessible style.
There is not a great deal of new information presented, but a number of areas are covered, from neuroscience and pharmacology to psychiatry and all the big names and major theories are mentioned. Regan does not try to be cutting edge (read Nature if that's what you hoped for) or propose radical new theories, but offers a decent review of recent understanding and current knowledge in psychopharmacology.
Clearly, the topic is an interesting one, and it is well handled. The depth and interest added by the historical detail add a great deal to the psychopharmacolgy presented. This is most evident in the chapter on hallucinogens and psychedelics, which discusses the history of these drugs' use going back thousands of years: shamen's use of these substances and the association of a potent mix with witches' flight (they spread it on their broomsticks) is discussed alongside contemporary writers' use of LSD.

This is a smashing little book which contains a lot of interesting information. An extensive bibliography is provided, so you can follow up areas that have stimulated your interest - there will be several.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Scott on July 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
All over the news, you can find stories about anti-depressants, heroin, cocaine, caffeine and hundreds of other drugs that fill our culture. But what makes these drugs do what they do? How do they affect our minds and alter our state's of consciousness?
Intoxicating Minds by Ciaran Regan attempts to address what goes on in the brain when it encounters different types of drugs, both legal and illegal.
The book is quite short. But it is also quite hard to follow at points. Stories quickly move from interesting antecdotes about the history of a particular drug and it's ancient uses to highly scientific briefs on neurons, electrical waves and brain chemicals. I found myself skipping around a bit when things got a little too complex for me.
It was interesting to learn how schizophrenia works and how certain drugs can block the mental state. There are also some good chapters on alcohol and caffeine. It's amazing how much damage these drugs can do, but yet it's perfectly legal to consume as much as you want.
This book doesn't delve into drug law or psychedelic party tricks, it just takes a somewhat interesting look into how these drugs move around in the brain and work in the crevices of your head.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Craig Huffstetler on July 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My first read of Regan's was a very nice experience. The book gives you very insightful information into "how drugs work" just as the cover states. It supports everything with ahrd-core evidence (which I love) and does not seem to pick a bias stand point on drug usage etc. and just gives a 'matter of fact' point of view much like a journalist.
Regan does not only point out the effects on drugs on the human body but also the influence of drugs on human beings throughout history...and how they have "reconfigured the chemistry of the body and the brain" throughout our own evolution.
Well read!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I found this book after several hours of fruitless searching. What I was looking for was a quick, science-based introduction to drugs and addiction that would give me bits of pharmacology, psychology, and neurobiology, with a few cultural, social, and historical ideas thrown in too. Cieran Regan's book looked ideal, but it was a big disappointment.
It does contain some good material, but the logic of the structure is quite difficult to understand. Regan eschews the traditional approach of discussing the subject matter drug by drug (say, one chapter for hallucinogens, one for stimulants, one for depressants) and opts instead for a more freewheeling approach in which neuroscience, history, and cultural comment are mixed in together. The trouble is, there isn't really enough of any one of these to satisfy. The neuroscience is too glossed to be properly comprehensible; the history is about as brief as you'd get in an encyclopedia and doesn't live up to a promise, made in the introduction, that "productive" and "fascinating" patterns will be revealed; and the commentary on wider cultural/social issues, in places, seems as vacuous and unsatisfactory as an all-things-to-all-people politician's speech (take these words on the human genome project on pp150: "The time has come again when science must reshape its therapies for the future. This time we are aware of the choices and consequences.").
What we have, in effect, is a series of fairly patchy essays about different aspects of modern pharmacology and brain function. While this makes for some interesting connections -- which was presumably the intention -- I found it really very confusing.
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