Points Interview—Helena Barop, Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979

Barop Title Card

Editor’s Note: Today, we’re pleased to interview Dr. Helena Barop about her new book , Mohnblumenkriege. Die globale Drogenpolitik der USA 1950-1979—or Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979. Dr. Barop recently received her PhD from the University of Freiburg.

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Points Video Interview—Yan Liu, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to feature the first Points Video Interview today! SHAD co-Editor Dr. David Herzberg interviews Dr. Yan Liu about his new book, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China.

Points Interview Yan Liu

At first glance, medicine and poison might seem to be opposites. But in China’s formative era of pharmacy (200–800 CE), poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. In Healing with Poisons, Dr. Yan Liu explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful drugs to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. By recovering alternative modes of understanding wellness and the body’s interaction with potent drugs, this book cautions against arbitrary classifications and exemplifies the importance of paying attention to the technical, political, and cultural conditions in which drugs become truly meaningful.

In this interview conducted by David Herzberg, Dr. Liu discusses several topics from his book, including the crucial, but forgotten role of poisons in Chinese medicine during the medieval era, the misconceived dichotomy between Chinese and Western medicine, psychoactive drugs, and the close relationship between poison, witchcraft, and politics in medieval China.

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Nominate a Book for the ADHS Rorabaugh Prize!

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS) is pleased to issue a call for nominations for the inaugural competition for the Rorabaugh Book Prize. The Rorabaugh Book Prize commemorates the life of the late William (“Bill”) Rorabaugh (1945–2020), a pioneer in the social history of alcohol, University of Washington professor,  and a former president and tireless supporter of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society.

The Rorabaugh Prize will be awarded on a biennial basis by the ADHS to the author(s) of a first or second monograph in the English language in the history of alcohol and drug studies (scholars who have published previously in other fields are welcome to apply).

The Rorabaugh Book Prize 2020 and 2021 Call for Submissions

In this inaugural year for the Rorabaugh Book Prize competition, two prizes will be awarded.

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New Books Network Seeks Podcast Hosts

Editor’s Note: We have cross-posted this announcement from H-Net for the benefit of interested Points readers.

New Books Network

The New Books Network (NBN) is seeking hosts for the podcasts “New Books in Drugs, Addiction, and Recovery” and “New Books in Medicine.”

New Book Network hosts pick the books they cover and record the raw interviews. NBN does all post-production (audio editing), publication, and promotion.

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The Points Interview: Danielle Giffort

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Danielle M. Giffort, assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Liberal Arts at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. She’s the author of the new book Acid Revival: The Psychedelic Renaissance and the Quest for Medical Legitimacy (University of Minnesota Press, 2020).

Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand. 

Acid Revival is about how a group of mental health professionals is trying to bring psychedelic-assisted therapy back into mainstream medicine and how they struggle with the past history of psychedelic drugs in medicine as they do this. My book looks at how these researchers grapple with this past by telling stories about what went wrong during the “first wave” of psychedelic therapy—a period stretching from the late 1940s to mid-1970s. And their stories all point the blame at one person: Timothy Leary, the infamous psychedelic researcher-cum-countercultural guru. 

For today’s researchers studying psychedelic therapy, Leary symbolizes what I call an “impure scientist”—a bad expert who does not respect and intentionally defies the boundaries of science. And in defying these boundaries, his presence supposedly had a polluting effect on the legitimacy of psychedelic therapy. So, researchers would tell me how Leary “contaminated” and “poisoned” psychedelic science. To contain that threat and offer an antidote to that poison, they perform as the Anti-Leary—a phrase I heard from several researchers. Another term bounced around was that they are “sober scientists.” So, essentially, the book tells a story about how, in the minds of contemporary psychedelic researchers, the misbehavior of an individual had contaminating effects on their whole scientific field—it boils down to a “one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel” story. 

But these boundaries between impure and sober scientists are porous. That’s the thing about boundaries—they aren’t given; they are constructed. The ways in which we draw lines in the sand between this or that is the result of struggle and those lines are subject to change across time and place. And the way that we see this happening in psychedelic science is this: these researchers push away from the pollution of the impure scientist by enacting the sober scientist persona, but at the same time, they still draw on the practices of the impure scientist. For example, among other things, they criticize Leary for failing to follow conventional scientific methods in his psychedelic research, so they actively work to follow the kind of hypothesis-testing methods that grant scientific credibility. But at the same time, they actively incorporate Leary’s insights about the psychedelic experience into their therapeutic models. Leary is so central to their stories and to the revival because he is the site of the continuities and divergences between the first and current waves of research. And from this discussion, I hope readers learn more about not just the history of psychedelic science but about how the ways in which people construct reality has real effects on their actions.  

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Taming Cannabis in France

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. David A. Guba, Jr., of Bard Early College in Baltimore. His new book, Taming Cannabis: Drugs and Empire in Nineteenth Century France, will be released by McGill-Queen’s University Press next month.

The push to legalize cannabis in France, where the drug is widely consumed but prohibited, is gaining momentum.

The grassroots pro-grass activism of NORML France has, in the past decade, been bolstered by growing popular demand and public calls for cannabis legalization by French entrepreneursfarmersphysicians, economists, politicians, and even police unions. In June 2019, seventy public figures signed and published an open letter in the popular news magazine L’Obs decrying the nation’s “costly,” “ineffective” and “repressive” prohibitionist policies and calling for the “supervised legalization” in France in the name of public health and violence prevention. 

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New Book Series: “Intoxicating Histories” from McGill-Queen’s University Press

New book series coming from McGill-Queen’s University Press: “Intoxicating Histories,” with series editors by Virginia Berridge, Erika Dyck, and Noelle Plack. Whether on the street, off the shelf, or over the pharmacy counter, interactions with drugs and alcohol are shaped by contested ideas about addiction, healing, pleasure, and vice and their social dimensions. Books in …

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Writing Opportunity: War on Drugs Book Chapter

Looking for an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience teaching some of the complexities of the War on Drugs? Kimber Quinney (CSU-San Marcos) and Amy Sayward (Middle Tennessee State) are editing a volume for the Understanding and Teaching series at University of Wisconsin Press on teaching contemporary American history. The volume will covers the years from …

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