Top critical review
16 people found this helpful
on February 20, 2012
I am an undergraduate reading this text for my "Drugs and Behavior" course. I don't usually write reviews, but this particular text struck a chord in me.
At some points the text does a good job of giving a basic overview of the effects of drugs on the body, but the perspective throughout is skewed: The historiography of drugs that he constructs is decidedly biased, while the physiological and psychological effects of the drugs listed are selective.
Take the section on MDMA, for instance,
"The physical health concerns with respect to Ecstasy center on its short-term and long-term toxicity. Acute effects [are] severe hypothermia...dehydration...and long term cognitive impairments and emotional difficulties. Heavy and prolonged Ecstasy use can produce confusion, anxiety, sleep problems, reductions in impulse control, and declines in memory and attention"
Mysteriously absent are the well-documented subjective effects on the mind of euphoria, DECREASED anxiety, increased sense of well-being and empathy. Actually, to the author's credit he did mention something about MDMA being explored in the 1980s as a therapeutic drug but concluded by saying that:
"Eventually, after several years of hesitations and reversals, the Drug Enforcement Administration put MDMA permanently on the Schedule I list of controlled substances, indicating that there is no accepted medical application for the drug"
And then he simply ends it there mentioning nothing further of the debate or putting one of those "Drugs...in focus" background/anecdotal boxes on the proceeding page that he is so fond of. That section is just one example representing a theme of the whole story not being presented about many drugs and multiple views on established scientific debates about the effects of drugs being absent. Thus, I have been left with a feeling that it is not a particularly academic book, which is confusing because it seems to be marketed toward undergraduate courses.
Other sections were simply bizarre, like "hexing drugs and witchcraft" [referencing the anticholiergic hallucinogenic drug "atropine" derived from the Atropa belladonna plant): "Witches were reputed to have prepared these mixtures as ointments and rubbed them on their bodies and on broomsticks, which they straddled. The chemicals would have been easily absorbed through the skin and the membranes of the vagina. The Halloween image of a witch flying on a broomstick has been with us ever since". Reputed by whom? No source listed. I have been left to conclude that the author simply made it up.
The general tone of the text to me seemed to convey the message that "this is the way drugs are and this is the way they function on your body, and they are generally a scourge upon society" While, I have often found myself wishing it was more: "Actually, drugs and their history of interaction with the human race is extremely complex, and for as much as we have learned about them so far, there is still much to learn and as a result there is still a lot of scientific and political debate about their form and function" Anyway, those are just my two cents.