THE FORBIDDEN GAME: A Social History of Drugs by Brian Inglis

THE FORBIDDEN GAME: A Social History of Drugs

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It's been said before. . . that as far as drugs are concerned, one culture's sacrament is another's plague. . . that (with the notable exception of Mao's China) prohibition campaigns have never worked. Inglis traces many of our popular drugs--including coffee and tobacco--back to more primitive, shamanistic societies where their use was associated with ritual vision seeking. Europeans distrusted the visions, but imported the drugs for recreation, and despite the disapproval of the church and the establishment, their use spread rapidly, with public demand and high profits defeating all attempts at control. Meanwhile, we gave our favorite drug, alcohol, to peoples for whom it had no established function and it too became a menace. One drug at a time, Inglish marshals the evidence to show how anti-drug campaigns have usually made the trade more profitable--beginning with James I's war against tobacoo, which ended with the crop becoming the mainstay of Virginia's economy. He also suggests that the effects of a particular drug may depend more on the user's expectations than on its chemistry. Gautier, a friend of Baudelaire, described intense hallucinations on hashish which today's users seldom achieve; tobacco was once strongly condemned for making men ""lustful"" and full of ""fierce passions"" while, for Indians, it induced trances; even extract of lettuce was classified as an opium-like drug in the 1850s. Unlike the more dating Thomas Szasz and Andrew Weil, Inglis is content to admit our ignorance of the nature of addiction. This of course is the big question mark and as long as it remains unanswered the legalization Inglis favors is only a de facto solution. This overview of the historical literature does show that waves of drug dependency and drug scares seem to be built into modern society. It will give readers new to the subject some useful perspective even if it presents no original answers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners