The War on Drugs at 50

Editor’s Note: This post by Social History of Alcohol and Drugs Editors Nancy Campbell, David Herzberg, and Lucas Richert kicks off Points’s commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of the War on Drugs.

In a White House press conference on June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a War on Drugs. His message was stark: “America’s public enemy number one, in the United States, is drug abuse.” He announced that it was “necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive” on this enemy, and his campaign would be “worldwide” in size and scope. Fifty years later, the United States and, indeed, many other countries are reckoning with the fallout.

President Richard Nixon’s June 17, 1971, press conference announcing a “a new all-out offensive” against drugs and “drug abuse.” Source: Richard Nixon Foundation YouTube channel.

At the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (SHAD), we are all too aware of the long term ramifications of President Nixon’s pronouncement, but we also recognize that the “War on Drugs” did not strictly begin in June 1971 and was rooted in prohibitionist impulses that built up over the decades; still, one can’t deny the power of branding—and in formalizing the “War” agenda at the highest level.

We are also committed to understanding the War on Drugs in locales and populations beyond the United States. And we are committed to understanding how harm reduction was minimized at the expense of more punitive measures, leading the War on Drugs to also become a War on People who Use Drugs.

Thanks to the University of Chicago Press, we are happy to share below a free selection of six SHAD articles that help explain the War on Drugs on the home front and outside American borders. These articles, which will be freely available and open access until the end of August 2021, present, we think, a valuable and broader perspective on the War on Drugs, which we hope will be of use to you. Interested readers can see the abstracts below and click through to read the articles.

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Points Update: Book Review Editor Wanted, and New Article Available from Lucas Richert and Erika Dyck

Happy 4th of July from your friends at Points! We hope you’re celebrating safely with friends and family if you’re in the United States.

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Two quick notes before we get back to grilling and sparklers:

First, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs is looking for a book review editor.

As the editors seek to diversify the journal, book review editors from non-Anglo-North American perspectives are wanted for SHAD. The book review editor will help manage the flow of books and reviews, including identifying titles for review, populating a list of books, securing appropriate reviewers, and overseeing the timely completion of reviews.

Inquiries should be received by September 6, 2019. You can see the full request here.

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Points Interview: Lucas Richert

Today’s Points Interview features Dr. Lucas Richert, George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of the newly-released Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019). Richert is also a co-editor of the ADHS’s official journal, Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Describe your book …

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Interview: Meet the New Editors of SHAD

In January 2018, Nancy Campbell, David Herzberg, and Lucas Richert assumed responsibility for Social History of Drugs and Alcohol: An Interdisciplinary Journal. They took on the role of co-editors in chief and began planning for the future. In April, the ADHS signed an agreement with University of Chicago Press.

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SHAD’s new co-editors, L-R: David Herzberg, Nancy Campbell, and Lucas Richert

1.) Tell us about your history as a scholar. What got you interested in alcohol and drug history?

Nancy: As the daughter and grand-daughter of small-town doctors, I was fascinated by the drug room and amassed a large collection of pharmaceutical giveaways. I was struck by how dismissive people were toward “druggies,” so at a tender age, I announced my intention to write a history of drugs. I’m just sticking to the plan.

Luc: I didn’t have a plan. Far from it. But I did figure out that I wanted to focus on the field of history in my third year of undergraduate. I started scheming and scrambling after I finished up at the University of Saskatchewan – and then I traveled to Edinburgh and London for graduate school. Early on, the American pharmaceutical policy grabbed my attention for a number of reasons; ultimately, this seemed a useful way of understanding the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

David: One of my closest friends in college had a very severe anxiety disorder. He was a very charismatic guy and liked to hold court and hold forth while medicating himself thoroughly with the one drug that he said eased his mind, alcohol. A favorite subject of his was Big Pharma medical journal ads. He had somehow come into possession of a huge stack of old journals, and he would flip through the images of smilingly healed people, deconstructing them freestyle, brilliantly but also bitterly–those drugs had let him down, but there they still were, mocking him with their shiny and, to him, fake promises. It stuck with me, this acute, intense version of consumer culture promises and human realities. My friend died while I was in grad school, making the questions more urgent right around when it was time to pick a dissertation topic.

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Points Interview: Stephanie Schmitz, Purdue University Archives & Special Collections

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted and written by Lucas Richert, Chancellor’s Fellow in Health History at Strathclyde and co-editor in chief of Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Enjoy! 

Stephanie Schmitz is the Betsy Gordon Archivist for Psychoactive Substances Research at the Purdue University Archives & Special Collections, where she is responsible for building collections pertaining to psychedelic research, and ensuring that these materials are discoverable and accessible in perpetuity.  

The conversation took place on June 8, 2018. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.

** 

Stephanie and I sat down to talk in the Purdue Memorial Union’s coffee shop early on a Friday morning and immediately realized we couldn’t stay. There was far too much activity. It was incredibly loud. “I know another spot,” she told me.  

Five minutes later, we found ourselves in an adjacent building. Stephanie was sipping coffee, as was I. We were set. Except not. A speaker on the floor beside us unexpectedly started up and the Kongos’ song “Come with me now” boomed. So we swiftly collected our belongings and moved across the room to a quieter table. 

“Alright,” Stephanie laughed. “Now I can think.” 

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Exciting Updates: SHAD and the University of Chicago Press, the 2019 ADHS Conference, and more!

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS) has a lot of exciting news to reveal these days.

First of all, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (or SHAD), the official journal of ADHS, has three new co-editors. We’re so pleased to welcome this esteemed and worthy trio!

Second, the co-editors of SHAD just signed a five-year agreement with the University of Chicago Press, beginning with the 2019 volume of the journal. ADHS President Dr. Timothy Hickman celebrated the news in an email, stating that “this is a fantastic deal for the society.  Of greatest interest to those of you who have published in the journal or are considering it, our reach will grow dramatically.  We will be bundled in with other U. of Chicago journals and will be part of their institutional subscription package.  That means we will become available in hundreds of libraries and research institutes all over the world where we had no presence before.

“It also means that the entire run of the journal will be easily available electronically and that the submission and review process will be brought up to date.  Submission will be centralized, and reviews assigned via an on-line submission system.  The new system will push the journal to an entirely new level, which I hope will encourage even more of you to submit.  The society will also benefit from a very lucrative financial arrangement with the press.

“We will also be able to bring our membership and subscription practices up to date.  The U. of Chicago Press will manage subscriptions, so please watch out for a renewal e-mail from them in the future.”

But that’s not all! Things just seem to be getting more exciting for ADHS: our 2019 conference will take us to Shanghai!

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Global Histories of Cannabis

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Lucas Richert and James H. Mills, professors at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and the organizers of the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, held April 19-20, 2018. They discuss the importance of developing a “big picture narrative” about the history of cannabis, and, as countries across the world reconsider marijuana laws, emphasize the need for this global approach. Enjoy!

Over the past decade governments in Uruguay, Portugal and the USA have made significant alterations to cannabis policies and other countries, such as Canada, have committed to major change this year. In 2018, Canada will be the first G7 country committed to ending cannabis prohibition at the federal level.

Ninety years after the UK imposed its own 1928 Coca Leaves and Indian Hemp Regulations, the Cannabis: Global Histories symposium at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow addressed a range of historical questions about the origins of attitudes towards, policies on, and markets for cannabis substances.  After all, by understanding how countries have come to the laws and control mechanisms that they currently deploy, and the reasons that consumers and suppliers have often proven to be so resistant to them, contemporary positions and future directions can be clearer, better-informed and free of the prejudices of the past.

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