The Instruments of Darkness Tell Us Truths: A History of Heather Edney & The Santa Cruz Needle Exchange

Editor’s Note: Today’s post in honor of Women’s History Month comes from Greg Ellis. Ellis and Heather Edney are currently writing an insider’s account about Edney’s early pioneering needle exchange work in Santa Cruz during the AIDS epidemic prior to the advent of protease inhibitors. Edney’s innovative ideas about harm reduction flourished in a male-dominated field and changed the face of modern healthcare and recovery. The memoir will be an imprint of Anthology Press.

junkphood - How to Spot a Coke OD
How to Spot a Coke OD, from the “Coked-Up Puffs” edition of junkphood, artwork by Brooke Lober, 1995. Image courtesy of Heather Edney

But ‘tis strange and oftentimes, to
win us to our harm, the instruments
of darkness tell us truths, win us with
honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.

—Macbeth act 1, sc. 3, l. 124-8

There is a simple principle in the field of harm reduction that drug users are the experts on using drugs. But what exactly does that mean? Strong governmental and institutional pressures to uphold systemic standards and anti-drug laws frequently foster mistrust between drug users and social service providers.

In her soon-to-be-published memoir and harm reduction manifesto, titled Sucking Dick for Syringes, long-time harm reduction activist Heather Edney recounts the history that led her to bridge the divide from the shooting gallery to the boardroom. Edney, who was instrumental in building the pioneering Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Program (SCNEP) in the 1990s, writes about the intersection of drugs, sex, and running an illegal syringe exchange. Her innovative risk reduction modalities ultimately created some of the most revolutionary and lasting changes during the infancy of the field. Her ideas and techniques have saved countless limbs from infection and loss, prevented unknown numbers of seroconversions, and introduced the concept of holistic healthcare to marginalized and criminalized populations.

Heather Edney operated in the world of drugs for much of her young life before landing in Santa Cruz, California, at the age of 19—where she learned about the fledgling needle exchange program run by a dedicated group of volunteers. Edney employed the skill set developed from a childhood of sexual trauma and familial dysfunction, quickly rising to a leadership position and ultimately creating an internationally renowned needle exchange model.

Continue reading “The Instruments of Darkness Tell Us Truths: A History of Heather Edney & The Santa Cruz Needle Exchange”

Apply for the AIHP Glenn Sonnedecker Prize for the Best Unpublished Manuscript about the History of Pharmacy or Pharmaceuticals!

Editor’s Note: An exciting publishing and prize opportunity for graduate students and Early Career Researchers!

AIHP Logo

AIHP is pleased to post this reminder about the 2021 AIHP Glenn Sonnedecker Prize competition. Each year, the Sonnedecker Prize recognizes the author(s) of the best unpublished manuscript, on a topic within the field of the history of pharmacy or pharmaceuticals, broadly defined.

The recipient of the AIHP Glenn Sonnedecker Prize will also be awarded a $1,000 cash prize, and her/his manuscript will be published in AIHP’s journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (University of Wisconsin Press), upon, and subject to, successful completion of peer- and editorial-review processes.

The Prize is aimed at graduate students and Early Career Scholars (ECRs). AIHP defines ECRs as holders of tenure-track positions who received the PhD within the previous three years or members of the academic precariat in limited term positions who received the PhD within the previous six years.

Co-authored papers are eligible for the Sonnedecker Prize competition—provided that all listed authors meet the necessary Early Career Researcher criteria.

Instructions for Submissions

The deadline for submission of manuscripts for the 2021 competition is June 1, 2021. To be considered for the 2021 Sonnedecker Prize, please submit a copy of the unpublished manuscript in Microsoft Word format. Email the manuscript to aihp@aihp.org using the subject heading “Sonnedecker Prize Submission” for the message. Articles should be 8,000-10,000 words, and authors should consult the HoPP Author Guidelines when preparing submissions. Papers in languages other than English should be accompanied by a translation.

Continue reading “Apply for the AIHP Glenn Sonnedecker Prize for the Best Unpublished Manuscript about the History of Pharmacy or Pharmaceuticals!”

The Way Back Machine—Marsha Rosenbaum: Women on Heroin at 40

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with Women’s History Month, this is the first installment in “The Way Back Machine,” a series of interviews with key theorists and practitioners of alcohol and drugs research, treatment, and recovery among women and communities of color during the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Through these interviews, Points co-founder and Managing Editor Emerita Trysh Travis works out some of the theoretical issues she articulated almost ten years ago in “Feminist Anti-Addiction Discourse: Towards A Research Agenda.”

Women on Heroin Cover
Cover of Women on Heroin by Marsha Rosenbaum.

When Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy #1” in 1971, the assumed abuser was male—probably a man of color, possibly a poor white man, but almost certainly a man. Women were known to use and abuse narcotics, but their numbers were small. As a result, theories of narcotics use, and the policy prescriptions that sprang from them, rarely paid attention to the woman user. Medical sociologist Marsha Rosenbaum set out to correct that problem with Women on Heroin (WOH), a field-defining study published forty years ago by Rutgers University Press.

Now retired, Rosenbaum went on to a long career as a researcher with the Institute for Scientific Analysis in San Francisco, where much of her work continued to focus on gender and narcotic use, especially the possibilities of methadone. She served as the Director for the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance from 1995-2008, where she took early and courageous stands in favor of harm reduction, marijuana legalization, and honest, science-based drug education for teens.

I caught up with Rosenbaum recently to celebrate the anniversary of WOH and discuss what lessons it might offer to feminist drug historians—including historians of the current opioid crisis.

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Job of Interest to ADHS and AIHP Members! UF Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research is Hiring

Editor’s Note: A job opportunity message today from Points co-founder Trysh Travis.

University of Florida Logo

The Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research at the University of Florida is hiring a full-time permanent lecturer to teach Health Disparities in Society, starting August 2021. Join Points co-founders Trysh Travis and Joe Spillane in a wacky workplace comedy focused on raising the critical thinking skills of “Florida Man,” broadly defined.

Seriously, this is a terrific position for someone whose goal is to work in both the community and the classroom. Health Disparities in Society is the largest minor in UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and engages students across the entire university. The Women’s Studies program is in the process of creating a Gender, Sex, and Health track within its thriving major, and the person in this position will participate in shaping that program as well. For full details and application, go to https://facultyjobs.hr.ufl.edu/posting/85040

The position closes on March 29th, so time is of the essence!

Continue reading “Job of Interest to ADHS and AIHP Members! UF Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research is Hiring”

Zada, Gloria, and the Sisters: Excerpts from A Conversation with Dr. Metta Lou Henderson

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of Points posts during March in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s article comes from American Institute of the History of Pharmacy Board Member Melissa Murer Corrigan, BPharm, FAPhA, FASHP. Murer Corrigan is the founding Executive Director/CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Passionate about leadership and encouraging more women leaders, she also is host of the MelisRxScripts podcast. 

Sister Pharmacist Mercy Hospital Chicago 1898
Sister Mary Ignatius Feeney in the Drug Room at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital in 1898. Sister Pharmacists helped to pioneer the specialty of hospital pharmacy. Image Courtesy of Metta Lou Henderson.

During March 2021, we celebrate Women’s History Month and recognize the significant contributions of women in history and society. I think it’s also a great time to learn more about the outstanding women who’ve played key leadership roles in pharmacy and health care. On my podcast MelisRxScripts, I strive to interview women leaders of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

I recently talked with Metta Lou Henderson, PhD, a research pioneer in the history of women in pharmacy. Women’s History Month is the perfect opportunity to share some highlights from our chat. In 2009, Metta Lou donated the Metta Lou Henderson Women in Pharmacy Collection to the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, and in 2015 she was elected the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) honorary president for her lifelong commitment as a scholar and advocate for the profession of pharmacy. Metta Lou also is the author of American Women Pharmacists: Contributions to the Profession.

Metta Lou is retired from Ohio Northern University and has had a long, accomplished and significant career in pharmacy. Here are some thoughts from Metta Lou on other women pioneers in pharmacy such as pharmacy educator Zada Cooper, pharmacy organization leader Gloria Francke, and Catholic nuns who helped pioneer hospital pharmacy.

This interview has been edited slightly for readability and space limitations. If you enjoy what you read please check out the full interview in Episode 17: “Take Risks and Make it Work” With Metta Lou Henderson at MelisRxScripts.

Continue reading “Zada, Gloria, and the Sisters: Excerpts from A Conversation with Dr. Metta Lou Henderson”

Review: “Commodifying Cannabis: A Cultural History of a Complex Plant in the Atlantic World”

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY. 

Borougerdi book Commodifying Cannabis
Cover of Commodifying Cannabis

I’ve been reading about pot since before my formal history training. I’ve always been fascinated by the inclusion of the standard story about the “long history” of cannabis that seemed to appear in the introduction to just about every book or article on the subject. As a teenager/young adult first experimenting with cannabis after a childhood of “Just Say No” sobriety, I was somehow comforted to know that I could tap into the wonders of a cannabis high in the same way that many ancient societies had in India, China, or the Middle East.

I have since learned a lot more about the plant, and it is clear that my assumptions had been based on problematic conceptions of “other” cultures. The growing historical literature about intoxicants has further challenged my formerly overly simplistic understandings about how societies manage drug use and about how drug policies and public opinion interact to shape beliefs about drugs. I’ve been struck, though, that the connection between ancient uses of cannabis and our more recent social and cultural contexts have often been missing from these analyses. Such a long-term historical perspective could help us better understand the dynamic flows of drug knowledge across time and place.

Bradley J. Borougerdi’s 2018 book Commodifying Cannabis seeks to make these types of connections. Borougerdi focuses on the Anglo-American Atlantic World and describes the plant as a “triple-purpose” cultural commodity. He builds on previous work by scholars like Isaac Campos who has previously investigated how re-interpretations of Spanish and indigenous knowledge influenced the circulation of information about cannabis in Mexico. Borougerdi, here, examines how orientalist assumptions shaped knowledge about the plant as it moved through the Anglo-American world. He argues that the different meanings of cannabis—attached to its different modes of use—dictated the trajectory of cannabis commodification in the early modern period, the prohibition of cannabis in the nineteenth century, and the recent re-commodification of cannabis.

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Profiting for Prescription: Medicinal Alcohol During Prohibition

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University.

James E. Pepper Whiskey Ad
James E. Pepper Whisky ad from the late nineteenth century. Source: James E. Pepper Distilling Company.

Whenever Prohibition reenters the zeitgeist through pop culture like the recent cable TV series Boardwalk Empire or through a historical anniversary, it seems inevitable that someone will produce an “isn’t this ridiculous” style article about the “bizarre” practice of prescribing medicinal alcohol. On the surface, the entire debate about prescription alcohol often seems illegitimate and merely a loophole that doctors and patients used to skirt enforcement of the Volstead Act.

As medical historians have pointed out, though, prescription alcohol is not merely arcane trivia.  It represented an early skirmish between an aggressive government and the collective efforts of the American Medical Association to assert its rights to distance medicine from politics.  

In reality, the status of medicinal alcohol resulted from negotiations between the state and organized medicine over the power to prescribe. Medicine already had enough prestige to weaponize laws against rival professions. Even critics of the AMA like pharmacist Henry Rowland Strong understood that it was seen “as a graceless and indelicate thing to criticize the medical profession,” and, he argued, the “political schemers in the high places of organized medicine” were always “quick to take advantage of this sentiment.” Strong feared that medicine would overtake pharmacy, and he warned:

No sooner is [the doctor] attacked for his greed for power and his unscrupulous methods of attaining it than he hastens to hide behind the skirts of the profession at large—the sentimental and picturesque ideal of the profession that the public cherishes in its heart—waxing eloquent about the sacredness of the calling, reciting its long list of honorable men and achievements, and setting forth its noble and disinterested aims.”

Critics feared that giving organized medicine the power to decide what medicines people could use would, in the words of Strong, “be tantamount to the establishment of a State system of medicine.”

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“…In Preference to a Better Qualified Woman”: Remembering Nellie Wakeman—Pharmacy Pioneer and Women’s Rights Activist


Editor’s Note: T
his is the first in a series of Points posts during March in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s article comes from Managing Editor Greg Bond, Assistant Director of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy and the Senior Editor of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals.

“Whenever a woman comes into competition with a man she must not only be as good but considerably better than the man who wants the same job,” explained Nellie Wakeman in a 1937 article about “Women in Pharmacy” for the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. Wakeman, who in 1913 had become the first (known) woman in the United States to receive a PhD in pharmacy, lamented that “even then the chances are about ten to one that it will be given to the man.”

Wakeman was the first—and at that time still the only—woman on the pharmacy faculty at the University of Wisconsin, and she described the employment situation in terms that may still be all too familiar for many women in the workplace today:

“And if the woman does get it, her salary will probably be less than that paid to men for the same work; moreover, arrangements are sometimes made that whatever of honor or credit accrues to the position will be directed to some male superior or colleague.” [1]

Throughout her long teaching career at the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy from 1913 through 1946, Wakeman battled discrimination but was both a role model and a fierce advocate for women in pharmacy. In the male-dominated professions of pharmacy and academia, she routinely earned praise for her research, writing, and teaching, and she created a lasting legacy by encouraging her female students to pursue pharmaceutical and graduate education despite the prejudices of the era.

Nellie Wakeman Through the Years
Nellie Wakeman through the years: in 1903, 1908, and 1939. Image courtesy of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy.
Continue reading ““…In Preference to a Better Qualified Woman”: Remembering Nellie Wakeman—Pharmacy Pioneer and Women’s Rights Activist”

Coming Soon: Cannabis Clinical Outcomes Research Conference (CCORC) 2021

April 8th – 9th, 2021 | Virtual
Learn, share, and advance medical marijuana research

Hosted by the Consortium for Medical Marijuana Clinical Outcomes Research, we welcome your participation and attendance at the inaugural Cannabis Clinical Outcomes Research Conference (CCORC).

With a focus on learning and sharing latest research findings, CCORC aims to provide a forum for researchers, clinicians, policymakers, and community stakeholders to discuss and advance our understanding of the health effects of medical marijuana.

As with many scientific and clinical conference currently, CCORC will be held virtually this year to ensure safe and healthy interactions.

Through the creative use of virtual spaces, CCORC will offer live interactions with our outstanding group of keynote speakers and panelists, as well as self-paced programs such as poster sessions and our exhibit hall where attendees can browse at their leisure.

CCORC 2021 Keynote Speakers

The keynote speakers for CCORC 2021 will be:

  • Dr. Donald Abrams, Integrative Oncologist, University of California, San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine;
  • Dr. R. Lorraine Collins, Associate Dean for Research, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo;
  • Dr. Ziva Cooper, Research Director, UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative.

Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the Cannabis Clinical Outcomes Research Conference (CCORC)!

To learn more about the conference, visit ccorc.mmjoutcomes.org today.

Registration is now open! Conference rates are $50 for early bird registration (before April 1st); $75 for regular registrations; and $20 for students.

About the Consortium for Medical Marijuana Clinical Outcomes Research

The Consortium for Medical Marijuana Clinical Outcomes Research, founded by the state of Florida legislature, conducts, disseminates and supports research on the clinical effects of medical use of marijuana.

Composed of nine universities in the state of Florida, the Consortium works to enhance the evidence on the safe and effective use of medical marijuana to inform clinical decision-making and guide policy. Learn more about the Consortium at mmjoutcomes.org.

Please direct any questions to mmj.outcomes@cop.ufl.edu.

Hidden Addicts: The Elderly and the Opioid Epidemic

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Michael Brownrigg. Michael recently received his PhD in US history from Northwestern University, where he studied the relationship between emotion, white masculinity, and capitalism to explain the emergence of an antinarcotic consensus in America at the turn of the twentieth century. 

“The face of the nation’s opioid epidemic increasingly is gray and wrinkled,” wrote The Washington Post in 2018, “but that face often is overlooked in a crisis that frequently focuses on the young.” Since the early 2000s, medical experts have grown alarmed by the precipitous rise in opioid-related hospitalizations and deaths among the elderly and deeply concerned that the burgeoning crisis among the geriatric population was going unnoticed.

They pointed to several factors to explain the phenomenon but primarily blamed polypharmacy—the practice of prescribing patients multiple, often dozens of, medications—for the dramatic increase in addiction rates. “An increasing number of elderly patients nationwide are on multiple medications to treat chronic diseases,” one specialist claimed, “raising their chances of dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects. Often the drugs are prescribed by different specialists who don’t communicate with each other.” Older Americans are essentially being pharmaceuticalized, medicated to death, or, at the very least, subjected to extreme distress.

Narrative Medicine

Overprescribing, as the Washington Post article noted, often results from a fractured medical community that impedes the type of collaboration and communication between practitioners necessary for providing integrated regimens tailored for specific patients. Instead of individualized care, elderly patients often receive standardized treatments, that emphasize the use of pharmaceuticals to alleviate chronic pain.

To better serve their patients, physicians need to listen more intently and more empathetically to fully understand the causes of their distress. In other words, they need to practice what Dr. Rita Charon, Professor of Medicine at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, has called “narrative medicine.

By asking pointed questions about both mental and physical health, practitioners can prompt patients to explain their suffering and to situate their pain in narratives and stories that help foster more thoughtful patient-doctor relationships and, consequently, provide intimate and targeted care. Charon writes that:

Continue reading “Hidden Addicts: The Elderly and the Opioid Epidemic”
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