On the Passing of Dr. David Musto

Students of U.S. drug policy will mourn the passing of Professor David Musto, perhaps the greatest historian of the field. The American Disease is the best-known of his books and is justifiably called a classic. An even greater delight for drug history buffs is The Quest for Drug Control, co-authored by Pamela Korsmeyer. The latter has a CD full of internal White House memos and other policy documents that is a joy to explore. When I met Noel Koch last year and he described his work for President Nixon on drug policy, it was fun to go back to my office, pull a memo he wrote over 35 years ago from the CD (The disc has a nice search feature) and then circulate it to him and a group of old Nixon hands around town.

David had an office inside Yale’s majestic, wood-paneled, portrait-strewn, medical uber-library. He looked as comfortable there as most of us would in our living room. During my very first academic job interview, at Yale Psychiatry Department, I asked for and received the gift of an interview with David. I believe we were supposed to talk about addiction but spent nearly the entire time discussing Sherlock Holmes. He fulfilled the dream of many an irregular by getting the Journal of the American Medical Association (!) to publish a case study of Holmes’ cocaine use, which showed he had chutzpah as well as intellect.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

3 thoughts on “On the Passing of Dr. David Musto”

  1. I'm sorry to hear about Dr. Musto. I never met him but his books have had a significant impact on the way I think about alcohol and other drug issues both professionally and in my personal life. RIP

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