The subject of today’s Points Interview is Dr. Ingrid Walker, discussing her new book, High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users (University of Washington Press, 2017). She has written and presented at length on the topic, including at a 2013 TEDx event. Follow her on Twitter.
Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.
If I ask you to picture a drug user, chances are that you won’t envision yourself. But nearly everyone is a psychoactive drug user. If you start your day with coffee or tea, if you enjoy drinking in this bar, or if you use psychotherapeutics–antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds–you are a drug user. The question is, why don’t we see ourselves as users? Because some drugs are so socially accepted that they are invisible. And other drugs have been vilified to the point of monstrosity.
People in the United States have been bombarded with stories about good drugs and bad drugs, from Prozac to bath salts. But that distinction is cultural—we made it up. It reflects assumptions that are not based in science, social science, or even personal experience. In High I tell the story about how and why we have come to these misconceptions. My book traces the cultural context of how we got here, to a place that so misunderstands drugs and users. It also proposes what we can do to change this.