Editor’s Note: This is me — Emily Dufton — signing off.
2020. What a year.
What was it for you? The pandemic? Teaching remotely? Learning a whole new way to interact with family and friends? The total disruption of normalcy?
There were highlights: the election of Joe Biden (a fellow Pennsylvania native — hello Scranton, my father’s hometown!) comes to mind. National protests over racial justice, a problem that certainly isn’t new but took on a sudden and disturbing relevancy this year. And there’s the unprecedented wave of democratic participation in the presidential and down-ticket elections, which is amazing and, I hope, repeated in 2024.
There were the obvious lowlights as well: the deaths from Covid. The deaths from overdose and suicide. The unemployment numbers rising and businesses closing. The children lost as social structures broke down.
For me, the highlight was the first year of life of my daughter Hope, who was born on 12/27/19, just a few months before the world as we knew it ended. There was success when my toddler son Henry’s preschool shut down in March and I was in charge of raising two children full-time from March until June.
But there were struggles for me, too. There was the struggle to start working on my next book, the history of medications for opioid use disorder — methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, which is due in December 2021 to the University of Chicago Press — while still being a full-time mom. Since June, I’ve only been able to write during Hope’s nap times, or when, in the fall, a babysitter came to watch her for a few hours in the afternoon.
I’ve packed a lot of work into those few hours each week, slowly crafting what I hope will become the definitive history of the drugs we rely on to treat a disease that is killing more people than car crashes each year.
But I can’t keep it up. And my deadline is inching closer every day.
So that’s why this is my last post for Points. After two and a half years of editorship, I am leaving the blog. I wish I still had the time for it, but I don’t, and I want to be honest about that with myself and with our readers.
This has not been an easy decision. I’ve edited Points before, from 2014 to 2016, and I signed back on in 2018. In terms of drug history, Points has been my home. Our stable of contributing editors and guest posters has become my friends and family. I’ve thrilled at the extraordinary content they’ve created, the things they’ve taught me, and the site we’ve created, where drug history is a thing that is important and alive, an extremely relevant and necessary element of discussions about the past and present.
But Points is changing, too. In 2021, the blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS) is merging with the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy (AIHP). This collaboration is a necessary one, given the overlap between illicit “drugs” and legal “medications,” and an exciting one, given that AIHP will bring new voices, new perspectives, and an additional institutional affiliation to Points’s work.
I’m leaving my work as editor in the extremely capable hands of Greg Bond of AIHP, and the editors of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, David Herzberg, Nancy Campbell and Luc Richert, who have included a note, below, about our forthcoming search for a digital editor for SHAD.
Our new face is an exciting one, so please watch for our shifted URL, which will soon be http://www.pointshistory.com.
As I sign off for the final time, I want to thank my beloved writers, our beloved readers, and everyone who has supported us in the work we do.
In closing, I want to reiterate that I believe strongly in the importance and value of drug history. It’s the most exciting field I’ve ever worked in, and it’s something to which I’ve dedicated my career. Understanding drug use means understanding our country, the people who live in it and the lives they lead, with their sufferings and sorrows, their successes and thrills, their struggles and successes, their lives and their deaths. To paraphrase a researcher whom I respect very much, lab rats don’t use drugs; people do, so to understand drug use is to understand humanity, with all of its complications and beauty. May we all seek greater understanding of the people who surround us in the future, with the same commitment to truth and compassion that I have found in the writing I’ve edited for Points.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide this work for you at Points, and I wish all of us good luck in 2021 and long beyond.
I’ll miss you! Stay in touch.
A note from David Herzberg, Nancy Campell and Luc Richert, editors of SHAD:
Editorial transition at Points
After two stints as managing editor here at Points, Emily Dufton is stepping back to focus on her new book. We eagerly anticipate that book and are deeply grateful for her brilliant work at Points; she followed the campfire rule and left the site much better than she found it. Under her stewardship, that Points fire has burnt both hotly and brightly. The types and numbers of posts have increased, which has driven up traffic and drawn more eyeballs. She has demonstrated a feel for the pointed turn of phrase, the visual witticism, and factish lyricism of our historically-minded but not historically-binded blog. We are very sorry to lose her leadership.
Emily’s departure is not the only change afoot. Like administrators everywhere, when faced with personnel loss, we are reorganizing. In our case, the transformation is a creative endeavor, an effort to align the blog with a moment in which the medicine/drug is collapsing in spectacular ways—as your friendly SHAD editors have documented in OD, Strange Trips, and White Market Drugs.
Soon, Points will have not one but two editors: one representing the Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS) and the other representing blog newcomer the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy (AIHP), which will be jointly publishing Points. There will continue to be a rotating list of contributing editors who generate content each month. A new domain name (pointshistory.com) will mark the new-look endeavor, which we regard not as a dilution of either organization’s mission, but as a consolidation of both that reminds us that medicines, drugs, and alcohol are categories in motion, always changing, and yet also surprisingly persistent as forces not of nature but of culture.