CEREMONIAL CHEMISTRY: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers by

CEREMONIAL CHEMISTRY: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Never one to do things halfway, Dr. Szasz, who is well known for questioning The Myth of Mental Illness, dismisses the concept of addiction as disease and launches into a savage, brilliant attack on the contemporary hysteria directed at ""drug abusers,"" whom he characterizes as present-day witches -- victims of medical rather than religious orthodoxy. Szasz documents at length the contradictory attitude that ""Western"" opiates (alcohol, tobacco) are acceptable whereas ""Eastern"" ones (marijuana, hashish, and opium) are subversive. He accuses the government of creating the ""drug problem"" by definition and of depriving users of socially unpopular drugs of their civil rights. He blames the medical-psychiatric establishment for exaggerating the harm done by these ""illicit"" substances and groundlessly defining unsupervised use as a disease (which they do not know how to treat) while freely dispensing similar chemicals to their own patients in the name of cure. Though the medical evidence which would counter popularly accepted beliefs about the perniciousness of ""hard"" drugs is not elaborated on here, the philosophical and historical arguments against the wisdom of persecuting users are devastating. What's missing is an alternative definition of addiction/dependency (whether to food, alcohol or heroin) which certainly exists as a problem even in the absence of psychiatric and law enforcement meddling and simply cannot be swept away with Szasz's huffing about will power. If imperfect, this is still a provocative dissent on a subject too often clouded by emotionalism and half-truths, and an important new Chapter in Szasz's continuing critique of the mental health industry.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1974
Publisher: Anchor Press/Doubleday