Five books on drugs

My list of five is up a the Five Books website; that meant leaving out eight other equally good volumes.

Five Books” is a website with an interesting premise: find someone who works on a given topic and ask him or her to name five books to read on that topic, and then discuss them.

When I was asked to name five books on drugs, I quickly agreed. But it turned out to be a harder assignment than it seems. Vigorous efforts to persuade Anna Blundy, who runs the site and does the interviewing, that five equals ten – for sufficiently large values of five – were unavailing.So I wound up leaving out more great books than I could include, and the final selections reflected considerations of topical balance as much as quality.

Here’s the list of five:

Philip J. Cook, Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control

David Boyum and Peter Reuter, An Analytic Assessment of US Drug Policy

Maia Szalavitz, Help at Any Cost

Gene Heyman, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice

Huston Smith, Cleansing the Doors of Perception

That meant leaving out:

Jonathan Caulkins, Susan Everingham, Peter Rydell, and James Chiesa, An Ounce of Prevention, A Pound of Uncertainty

David Courwright, Dark Paradise and Forces of Habit

John Kaplan, The Hardest Drug

Rob MacCoun and Peter Reuter, Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Times, Places and Vices

Don Perrine, The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs

Robin Room, Benedikt Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton and Peter Reuter, Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate

Andrew Weil and Winifred Rosen, Chocolate to Morphine

And yes, all of this will be on the exam.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

17 thoughts on “Five books on drugs”

  1. And where would the WSJ reporter Dan Baum's book "Smoke and Mirrors: The war on drugs and the politics of failure" appear?

  2. Mark (from the linked article): "I think it was Alan Watts who said: ‘When you get the message, hang up the phone.’"

    Watts used to drink a quart of vodka every day, and once said that he hated himself when he was sober. Apparently, with some phones, he choose to remain on the line.

    Thanks for posting the list of books. I'm sure I'll find some interesting reading.

  3. Rachel:

    Or maybe he wasn't hoping for the vodka to deliver a message, as opposed to oblivion.

  4. What about Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas? Or A Million Little Pieces???

    But seriously, the David Simon / Ed Burns HBO miniseries "The Corner" should count as a book. Or, failing that, the book it was based on.

  5. Or maybe he wasn’t hoping for the vodka to deliver a message, as opposed to oblivion.

    It's a thin line.

  6. Weil and Rosen drew upon the insights of Norman Zinberg's "Drug, Set, and Setting" for their basic model, unless my timeline is backwards. I think Zinberg did his research during the war in Vietnam, following up servicemen who took heroin while in Vietnam and ceased using upon return to civilian life. Zinberg saw that "addictiveness" was not a pharmacologic property of heroin in the same way that its effects on intestinal motility were properties of the drug. Weil and Rosen are more accessible to a general reader, though.

  7. In my edition of "From Chocolate to Morphine", there was a section about drug-enforcement, and to illustrate the existence of legal gray areas, the authors had included a picture of an ad for mushroom-growing kits that you could buy through the mail (I think these were legal back then, or quasi-legal — the memory dates from the late eighties). Anyway, the illustration was ostensibly there to demonstrate the existence of gray markets, but the enterprising reader was easily able to read the name of the company, their address and even their phone number, merely by applying a magnifying glass to the page. This was a useful thing back in the days before the internet.

  8. Ed, there's a pharmacologic explanation of the Vietnam cases. Environmental triggering supervenes a physical mechanism. For most addicts, there's no treatment equivalent to being removed from of a SE Asian war zone. Forty years later, a nontrivial number of Vietnam veterans remain in the VA methadone-maintenance archipelago.

  9. K., it has been many years since I read Zinberg, but I think that he would consider "environmental triggering" under the heading of "setting." A war zone in SE Asia, a frat house party, a mosh pit at a rave, and a neighborhood with 50% house foreclosure and 50% unemployment, are all separate social "settings" in his model. The "Set" is what the individual brings to the drug experience (attitude, personality). "Setting" recognizes that solitary drinking, for example, differs from group drinking. The same "drug" operates differently in different social settings.

    I think that Andrew Weil worked with Zinberg early in his career. Mark no doubt is up on all the details of the Zinberg model, but I think that the "pharmacologic explanation" of the Vietnam cases fails to distinguish drug and setting. The fact that many veterans remain on methadone maintenance is partly due to the pharmacology of methadone and partly to other factors of set and setting.

  10. Ed is right. Zinberg was an extremely acute student of the problem, but it's remarkable how many people understand "drug, set, and setting" as meaning "set and setting trump drug." Of course addictiveness is a pharmacological property of heroin; no one came back from 'Nam hooked on anti-fungals. It's just that the pharmacological property "addictiveness" turns into actual addiction more in some populations and under some circumstances than others. No drug is addictive for everyone, but some drugs are much more addictive than others, and than most other activities that produce addictive behavior in some subjects: eating, gambling, shopping, and sex.

  11. One other wrinkle here involves different terminology for different phenomena involved in drug use. “Tolerance” is a physiologic adaptation to the continued presence of a drug that requires higher doses to produce the same effect. “Dependence” is a disturbance in body homeostasis leading to withdrawal symptoms and signs after discontinuation of use. “Addiction” is a behavioral pattern of drug craving and seeking which leads to a preoccupation with drug procurement and use. An addict spends an inordinate amount of time securing access to the drug, using it, and recovering from its effects.

    Under these definitions, tobacco would produce dependence but not addiction. Smokers make more trips to 7-11 than most of us in order to buy a pack of cigarettes, but they do not take extraordinary steps to go and meet with “the man” for their daily supply. Maybe the tobacco executives were not lying after all when they went to Congress and raised their right hands and swore that they believed that tobacco was not addicting.

    Millions of Americans are dependent on nicotine. While we have no addicts today, we could create legions of them overnight. We would simply need to enact legislation making possession and sale of tobacco a felony. Smokers, suddenly deprived of their supply of their drug, would have a new daily priority, obtaining their substance of choice. They would become preoccupied with finding their next pack or carton.

    The resulting “addiction” would be a function of three distinct influences: the properties of nicotine, the personal characteristics of individual smokers, and the new legal climate radically altering access to tobacco. Nicotine dependence would be a property of the drug. Some individuals would say, “This is it; I can live without this drug; I quit.” Others would say, “I have to have cigarettes or I will die.” These different mind sets would be the “set.” The setting would change from inhaling in the smokers’ area (usually an outside patio in most office buildings) to clandestine and concealed places. To have a handle on the problem, an understanding of al three components would be required.

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