From Publishers Weekly
The "war on drugs," charges Szasz, is a hypocritical moral crusade, a pretext for strengthening the state and scapegoating deviants. It is also racist, he asserts, pointing out that blacks are arrested on drug charges at a rate far out of proportion to their drug use. In a hard-hitting, controversial polemic, the well-known critic of psychiatry ( The Myth of Mental Illness ) advocates a free market in drugs, both for pharmaceutical medicines (including opiates) and for substances like heroin and marijuana. Szasz believes that state-sanctioned coercions to protect people from their own vices are futile and violate our fundamental rights. Futher, he maintains that labeling drug abuse as illness medicalizes a social problem and helps turn drug abusers into lifelong patients. In his blueprint for decriminalization, states could ground motorists whose driving ability is endangered by drug use; he also supports compulsory drug testing in occupations where a worker's impairment jeopardizes public safety.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From Kirkus Reviews
Szasz (Psychiatry/SUNY at Syracuse) at his abrasive best, skewering the shibboleths of the War On Drugs and giving historical context to the current national hubbub. The prohibition of drugs abrogates our constitutional right to property; Americans have lost the freedom to control their bodies; until 1914, Americans had unrestricted access to drugs of their choice without government control of the market: Thus begins this reasoned and passionate treatise, in which Szasz denounces both the prohibitionists (``the War On Drugs is itself a giant quackery'') and the legalizers--``paternalistic prohibitionists'' whose agenda, the author says, is to transfer control of drugs to the medical system and to continue prohibiting substances, albeit only certain ones (e.g., tobacco rather than marijuana). After a scathing indictment of Nancy Reagan's ``moronic anti-drug slogan'' and her encouragement of children who report their drug-using parents to the police, Szasz dissects a cast of antidrug crusaders (Father Bruce Ritter, Betty Ford, Kitty Dukakis, William Bennett) and concludes that drug education is the ``name we give to the state-sponsored effort to inflame people's hatred and intolerance of other people's drug habits.'' Turning to legalization proponents--Lester Grinspoon, Ethan Nadelman, Eric Sterling, William F. Buckley, Jr.--Szasz analyzes their proposals as new prohibition schemes. Why do we fear making drugs freely available? Because people would choose ``an easy life of parasitism over a hard life of productivity'' and become ``drug-crazed'' criminals? According to Szasz, economic productivity, crucial for the survival of society, has ``nothing to do with drugs but has everything to do with family stability, cultural values, education, and social policies.'' And, as for crime, it is caused not by drugs but by their prohibition. Places the rhetoric and the players in clear positions on the board, whether or not you agree with the Szasz prescription. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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