Elaine Nelson's Reviews > This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America

This Is Your Country on Drugs by Ryan Grim
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's review
Sep 03, 2009

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bookshelves: autobiography, economics, history, legal, politics, non-fiction, sociology
Read in August, 2009

People like to get f'd up...and Americans even more so. (I read a book once, a long time ago, that asserted that the Inuit (?) were the only people who didn't have a native intoxicant/psychotropic tradition, and that's only because there's nothing to make anything from.) Only touches on the early years very lightly: the now well-known (to me) fact of the early settlers' amazing drunkenness, and all that, spending much more time with the late 19th and 20th centuries.

His basic premise is that if one substance is unavailable or unpopular (booze, acid) people will turn to something else (opium, adderall). Lots and lots of examples, plus plenty in the strange stupid history of prohibitions, including the WCTU, Reagan's crazy fixation with pot, and the confluence of events that led to the disappearance of acid in the late 90s; an interesting detour into the medical marijuana trend, plus a startling amount of personal (if a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge) experience. And of course DARE, that famously counter-productive and yet predictably popular program.

The challenge, it seems to me, is discovering an educational process that is honest about people's appetites and at the same time focused on personal safety. Until then, we're stuck in a useless -- but expensive! -- cycle of fear-mongering and forgetting.
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