DRUGS IN AMERICA: A Social History, 1800-1980 by H. Wayne Morgan

DRUGS IN AMERICA: A Social History, 1800-1980

Email this review


University of Oklahoma historian Morgan usefully scrutinizes the relationship between drugs, users, and society's response to them--grounding perceptions in fact and adding some insights of his own. Traditionally, Americans have opposed drug use and feared drug experiences as inimical to accepted values and aspirations: individualism--safeguarded by social conformity and emotional stability (drug users are anti-social); the need for order, efficiency, predictability, and productivity (drugs threaten the work ethic); the sex-and-prostitution connection (drugs weaken family stability). These onuses were coupled with pernicious racial and minority connotations (Chinese and opium, blacks and cocaine, Mexicans and marihuana, etc.). Early on, Morgan notes, opium was freely used as a medicine to relieve chronic pain, as a specific against dysentery, and as a sedative; abuse arrived with the availability of morphine, the invention of the hypodermic needle, and the ignorance of doctors concerning addiction. Gradually it dawned that drugs could not be confined to society's marginal elements; still, the old attitudes persisted, and the 20th century brought futile searches for cures for addiction, increasingly repressive antidrug laws (which prevented doctors from troating known addicts), and, in wartime, the feeling that drug use was unpatriotic. In the 1950s, with rising heroin use and teenage experimentation, the old antidrug consensus began to crumble, and the emphasis switched from legal remedies to a medical view of the problem. In his concluding bibliographical essay, Morgan predicts that ""the controversy over drug use and misuse will continue, and attitudes and tastes will undergo cyclical changes as they have for a hundred years."" Meticulously researched and scrupulously neutral in tone: a solid, intelligent work altogether, with a range of applications.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1981
Publisher: Syracuse Univ. Press