Re: "The drugs are there, but rather than glorifying them, a full reading of the book shows that, in the long run, the drugs took a heavy toll."
I think that rather depends what drugs you mean. I was fairly taken aback at the abandon at which Lesh extols the supposed virtues of LSD in the beginning. The Dead's use of LSD eventually tapers off, maybe stops completely, but it's never clear why. Alcohol is probably Pigpen's eventual undoing, and although Lesh is a bit cavalier about alcohol toward the start, it's perhaps ironic that Pigpen alone refuses to touch LSD or marijuana. Cocaine and Garcia's heroin, which don't figure in at all in the hippie days, do take some kind of toll in SOME run (not necessarily a LONG one), but it appears to be Garcia's DIABETES that catches up to him thirty years on. Lesh's health problems MAY have to do with his later alcohol abuse and an indiscreet early shared needle (which is NOT how either LSD or marijuana is ingested), but note that his wife gets thyroid cancer at the same time. What's the moral? It may simply be "things happen" or even "we're all mortal". I think the book is ambiguous or ambivalent--or just unclear--about this stuff. Maybe Lesh thought, "My job is merely to report; draw your own conclusions," but he seems to have gone a little further--in my opinion, either too far or not far enough.