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The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America's First Prison for Drug Addicts Hardcover – October 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nancy D. Campbell, associate professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, writes about drug policy, science, and culture. She lives in upstate New York. JP Olsen is a filmmaker whose work has appeared on PBS, ABC, CBS, A&E, and The Discovery Channel. Luke Walden is a documentary film cameraman and editor whose most recent credits include a film about UN peacekeeping in war-torn countries. Olsen and Walden live in New York.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams; 1st edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810972867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810972865
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Fibonacci on September 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Narcotic Farm" is the first book to tell the many-faceted story of The Narcotic Farm, a federal hospital/prison for drug addicts in Lexington, Kentucky that opened in 1935 and closed forty years later. Though it failed to cure addiction, Narco (as locals called it) pioneered most of the treatments used today, and trained many of the leaders of addiction research. Campbell, Olsen, and Walden tell it all: the hopes attending its founding, the experiences of its inmates from admission through rehabilitation to release - and readmission, the pioneering treatments and scientific research, the ethical quandaries that finally shut it down. They tell it well; the style is clear and jargon-free, and the photographs, culled from attics and archives, bring the story to life. And they tell it like it was. As a "Narco Brat" who grew up on the grounds, I had the run of the place. Everything in this fascinating book jibes with my memories -- the patients and the doctors, the cows and the jazz.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jon L. Landau on October 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having spent some federal prison time at "The Narco Farm" I can tell you it was a gallant if failed experiment. In the early days it was a voluntary treatment center but as "the War On Drugs" raged on it became the concentration camp for addicts and dealers. The European approach of "Harm Reduction Therapy" seems to be the best course of action. Less harm to society, the addict's health, and the government in general. Let's hope that the seven million people in Federal, State and County jails will not be the wave of the future.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frederick B. Glaser on September 30, 2008
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Opened in 1935, the Lexington (Kentucky) Hospital of the United States Public Health Service was for four decades the only place that persons dependent on narcotics could go for help. It was a pioneering effort on the part of a then enlightened federal government to assist a population that was, and still is, almost universally shunned. Although I was on the staff of the hospital for a period of two years, the book contains views of parts of the institution that I never saw; it is highly comprehensive. Many of the photographs are themselves works of art, and all are an important part of the historical record of this now-vanished institution, which established the base of what is now known about narcotic addiction. Lexington was a noble effort, and here it is finally given its due. I understand that the book is the basis for a PBS documentary that will air later this fall.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Blucher on February 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
INo meat. I do not usually review books I purchase on amazon but felt compelled to write about this particular book. I didn't want anyone to be as disappointed as I was.
I ordered this book after seeing the excellent PBS program from which it was based upon. Usually one would expect a book to have more in depth information than a one hour documentary program but in this case there was not, if anything there was less. They give the reader an excellent feel for the facility w/ photos but it is seriously lacking any in depth analysis or interviews. Sont let the number of pages fool you, the whole printed portion of this could be <25 pages! If you are looking for beautiful photographs of the institution this is the book for you. If you want to learn more about the experiments, the people who were sentenced or volunteered there, and what life was like living on 'the farm' watch the PBS documentary.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Contains archival pictures from this unique facility. Readable. My mother (age 92) worked in administration at this facility and was impressed with detail and accuracy. Companion to public television program which is not available on DVD.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Goodpaster on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I live less than a mile from the facility in this book. I grew up here in Lexington during the Narcotics Farm hey day and knew very little about it. This is a great account, with lots of pictures to show how it was. This account shows how much we have gained as well as how little we truly know about addiction, drug abuse & the criminal aspects associated with it. This book is great fro any one working in Corrections (as I do), in a medical field or in drug rehab & treatment. I highly recommend it. It would also make a great gift for anyone in those fields or anyone in Central Kentucky interested in the history of the area.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book tells the important story of how addiction was treated in this country from 1935 until 1975. The Narcotic Farm treated both prisoners who committed crimes because of their addiction, and addicts who sought treatment on their own. This was a functioning farm, because it was thought that fresh air, exercise, and learning a trade would help the addicts remain drug free when they returned home. Sadly, relapse rates were around 95%, probably because addicts returned home to their same environments, with no ongoing treatment.
This book preserves a unique part of the history of addiction treatment. The forerunner to present-day NIDA was founded at the Narcotic Farm, and a generation of specialists began their training at the Farm.
It's a fascinating book, and much of it is told with excellent black and white pictures.
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By Alta C. Raper on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A greatl book if you are a history buff or if you have a reason to dig into the history of this place which is now operating as the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY. Lots of authentic pictures of the early facility and its operation.
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