In my first post for this six-part series of commentaries, I reflected on the start of the “Psychedelic Pasts, Presents, and Futures” Borghesi-Mellon workshop when faculty, students, and community members gathered in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to discuss the importance of transdisciplinarity in psychedelic research and education. In this final post of the series, I return to transdisciplinarity after a semester of events, including a second discussion about transdisciplinarity on the other side of UW-Madison’s campus in the brutalist, concrete Helen C. White Hall. One of the aims of the organizers—Dr. Lucas Richert, Amanda Pratt, and myself–for this workshop was to foster conversations about what humanities and social sciences perspectives bring to psychedelic studies, particularly in relation to the role of transdisciplinarity at the new Transdisciplinary Center for Research on Psychoactive Substances (TCRPS) at UW-Madison.
A commonly cited catalyst for the psychedelic renaissance is the renewed interest in biomedical research on psychedelics for mental health, including depression, PTSD, and addiction. For instance, popular media like Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind (2018) and its Netflix adaptation (2022) often utilize this research to bolster claims about the relative safety of psychedelics and their efficacy as a mental health treatment. The common (and simplified) narrative in these popular portrayals is that psychedelic research boomed throughout the mid-twentieth century before being swept up in the drug war and pushed underground, and yet today, after years of unjust policies and propaganda, psychedelic researchers and advocates from the past are being proven right by contemporary biomedical research.
On a sunny, fall day in Wisconsin, the “Psychedelic Pasts, Presents, and Futures” Borghesi-Mellon working group teamed up with the Allen Centennial Gardens to host an event where participants were exposed to the role of plants as the basis of psychoactives and medicines. Specifically, those who attended were given the opportunity to learn about and interact with tobacco, poppies, catnip, cannabis, salvia, morning glory, castor bean, wormwood, and numerous medicinal plants in the Hmong Garden. The event was facilitated by Dr. Lucas Richert, Amanda Pratt, and Reba Luiken, and each specific plant was overseen by a faculty member, staff member, or graduate student who offered educational information on the plant, including Reba Luiken (Allen Centennial Gardens), Ryan Dostal (Horticulture), Shelby Ellison (Horticulture), Lucas Richert (Pharmacy), JJ Strange (History), and Isaac Zaman (Horticulture).
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the inaugural issue of AIHP’s journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP) (vol. 63, no. 1). Today we feature Mat Savelli, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Health, Aging, and Society at McMaster University. Read his article here (open access until February 2022!) and consider joining AIHP to subscribe to HoPP.
Article Abstract for “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements”
In this article, we examine advertisements for psychoactive products sold in five different geo-political jurisdictions: Canada, Colombia, Yugoslavia, India, and Senegal. We compare products and marketing campaigns aimed at selling psychoactive substances to consumers in these places over the twentieth century.
The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) is pleased to announce that the first issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP), the Institute’s renamed academic journal is now available online at JSTOR (63.1, 2021)! This issue of the journal is also the first published under AIHP’s new partnership with the University of Wisconsin Press. HoPP continues Pharmacy in History, which AIHP self-published from 1959 through 2020.
The first issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals features articles about trademarks and intellectual property rights in the British drug market in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the history of non-branded compounded drugs in the Netherlands; the introduction of cocaine to China; and an analysis of the global advertising of psychoactive drugs. Editor-in-Chief Lucas Richert said that the first issue of the re-titled HoPP “represents the increasingly global and vibrant nature of pharmacy and pharmaceutical history.”
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Peder Clark. Dr. Clark is a historian of modern Britain, with research interests in drugs, subcultures, health, everyday life, and visual culture. He completed his PhD in 2019 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and currently holds a position at the University of Strathclyde.
“Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To”, the title of British indie band Spacemen 3’s 1990 album, sums up for many the symbiotic relationship between rock music and psychoactive substances. From “Cocaine Blues” to Jefferson Airplane and from “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” to Amy Winehouse, rock’s back pages are soaked in the celebration, inspiration, and (sometimes) repudiation of drug-fueled intoxication.
The conspicuous consumption of drugs—or winking allusions to drugs—is a tried-and-tested way for young musicians to illustrate their edginess, to promote their counter-cultural associations, and to make real the moral danger that they might feel is inherent in the art-form. No need, however, to bore Points readers with musings better suited to ghost-written Keith Richards memoirs.
What about musicians that aim for a more considered, less debauched approach to chemically-enhanced states of mind? This is all by way of introduction to a recent bubbling up of psychedelic consciousness amongst musicians of a certain vintage—and a renewed attention to the role of music in psychedelic therapy.
The Alcohol and Drugs History Society is pleased to release its call for papers for the 2022 biennial ADHS conference, currently scheduled for June 15–17 in Mexico City. The 2022 conference theme will be “Rethinking Alcohol and Drugs: Global Transformations / Local Practices in History.”
The conference will be a collaboration between the ADHS and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México-Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (IIS-UNAM). ADHS hopes that this conference will be an in-person event, but please stayed tuned for more details in early 2022.