Teaching Points: “Drugs in U.S. History”

Around the beginning and end of every semester (summer included), we feature syllabi, instructional materials, and instructor reflections on courses related to topics of interest to Points readers. Below, you’ll find the syllabus for “Drugs in U.S. History,” a summer course taught this year by Kyle Bridge at the University of Florida. In a few weeks, like those who came before him, he will publish a reflection on Points, thoroughly detailing the progression of the course, from planning, assigning, and evaluating student work to connecting themes developed in class to his own research. Stay tuned!

AMH 3931: Drugs in United States History

Instructor: Kyle Bridge (kbridge@ufl.edu)

Course meets: [redacted]

Office hours: [redacted]

Course objectives: Upon successful completion of this course, students will understand the complex role played by drugs in American society, beginning with the construction of drug debates and the evolving definitions of key concepts like “drug” or “addiction.” They will be able to identify and explain historical contexts of drug use, to critically analyze cultures of control that have developed around different substances (including in the criminal justice system but also the addiction treatment field), and to articulate and assess challenges to those cultures through measures including drug legalization, medicalization, and harm reduction. Continue reading

Drug Use in the Past and Present: Points Bibliography

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

Psychotropic Society: The medical and cultural history of drugs in France, 1840-1920

Author: Black, Sara Elizabeth

Abstract: “Psychotropic Society” traces the numerous ways in which the everyday consumption of psychotropic substances in the nineteenth century blurred the lines between science and stimulation, calculated therapeutic practice and chemically induced self-discovery. It focuses on opium, morphine, ether, chloroform, cocaine, and hashish—all substances used both to control pain and to produce pleasure, at a time when the boundaries between medical and recreational drug use were ill defined and permeable. Doctors, pharmacists, and the state sought to mobilize these substances to relieve pain in the birthing room and the battlefield, to restore sanity in the asylum, and to shore up their own authority over the bodies of citizens. Determining proper dosages and discovering potential side effects of these drugs are crucial chapters in the history of therapeutic progress and medical ethics, which this dissertation explores. Yet these projects were intertwined with doctors’ self-experimentation, bohemian recreational drug use, and popular fascination with the increasingly common figure of the addict. “Psychotropic Society” reveals the centrality of these varied and seemingly liminal uses of drugs to the emergence of modern French medicine and therapeutic regimens that shaped the ways in which citizens experienced the world at key moments in their lives. Drugs offered doctors and pharmacists powerful ways to legitimate their professions. It was not simply that they acted as gatekeepers to these powerful substances. Rather, medical professionals emphasized the danger and heroism of their experiments with drugs on their own bodies in the name of therapeutic progress. Psychotropic drugs were also at the center of a new claim by French citizens: the right to freedom from pain. Drugs’ widespread availability empowered patients to self-medicate, transcending the quotidian discomforts of modern life. Yet this freedom came at a high potential cost for a nation that saw itself as a collection of liberal subjects. Drugs cast into doubt the notion of the liberal self as autonomous, rational, and driven by free will. Instead, these substances revealed that self to be malleable, sometimes passive, and mediated through the body’s chemical needs and desires.

Publication year: 2016 Continue reading

Ethnic, Racial, and Cultural Contexts of Recovery in North America: Points Bibliography

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

Alcohol Use and Risk Drinking in Ontario Ethnic Groups

Author: Agic, Branka

Abstract: This thesis examines the prevalence and patterns of alcohol consumption among Ontario ethnic groups, as well as socio-demographic and cultural factors that increase or reduce their vulnerability to risk drinking. A mixed methods approach was applied. Qualitative data were obtained through focus group discussions with the key informants and community members from seven Ontario communities: the Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Tamil, Punjabi, Serbian and Somali. Quantitative data were derived from the CAMH Monitor, a cross-sectional survey of Ontario adults, collected between January 2005 and December 2010 (N=13,557). The results show higher prevalence of self-reported lifetime, current and risk drinking among the Canadian and the European-origin groups compared with other ethnic groups. Within-group gender differences were evident for all ethnic groups, with the narrowest gender gap being observed within the North European group and the widest in the South Asian group. First generation immigrants have generally lower prevalence of alcohol consumption and risk drinking than Canadian-born respondents, with foreign born individuals from the European groups reporting higher rates of alcohol use and risk drinking than other groups. While previous studies generally found an increase in immigrants’ alcohol consumption with years in Canada, our data suggest that longer duration of residence may have either positive or negative effects on immigrants’ alcohol use, depending on the country of origin/traditional drinking pattern. Although the non-European ethnic groups have higher rates of abstinence and lower alcohol consumption rates, a considerable proportion of people from these ethnic groups may be at risk of alcohol-related harm due to risky and harmful alcohol consumption patterns. Drinking levels that are considered ‘normal’ or ‘excessive’, the type and size of alcoholic beverages, and the perception of the risks and problems related to alcohol use are largely shaped by cultural norms and beliefs. Socio-economic disadvantages and barriers to service utilization heighten the minority ethnic groups’ vulnerability to alcohol-related problems. This theses contributes new and important evidence on the prevalence and patterns of alcohol consumption in Canada’s ethnic groups, and factors that contribute to risk drinking. The findings have significant implications for prevention and service provision, particularly for minority ethnic groups that are already marginalized and unlikely to access mainstream services. Continue reading

Points Bibliography: Spirituality, Religion, and Addiction Treatment

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

A Faith-Infused, Addiction Recovery Model of Pastoral Care to Help Reduce the Epidemic of Substance Addiction; an Urban Ministry Prototype in Raleigh, North Carolina

Author: Daniels, George T.

Abstract: Substance addiction, often referred to as substance abuse, is a major problem in American society. Addiction destroys lives. Just about everyone at some point has known someone who was addicted to drugs or alcohol. Substance addiction crosses cultural and socioeconomic lines; it does not discriminate. Church leadership often encounter members who struggle with addiction. Many pastors are ill-prepared to care for addicted persons. Pastoral training concerning substance addiction becomes a key factor in a ministry recovery model. The goal of this project, therefore, was to train pastors and church leaders about substance addiction. The project explored models of substance addiction across several disciplines. The result of this work will increase the church leader’s understanding of addiction and its effects on individuals, families and communities. To determine the effectiveness of this project, the researcher employed two assessment instruments. The first instrument was a Likert-scale questionnaire, which gathered data to underscore the need for the project. The second was the participant interview, which revealed the person’s project experience and their assessment of the ministry project. The assessment tools showed that this faith-infused addiction recovery model was effective. Each participant indicated that he or she experienced an increase in knowledge, skills, and positive attitude concerning substance addiction.

Number of pages: 121

Publication year: 2015

ISBN: 9781321992977

Advisor: Harris, Antipas L.

Committee member: Smith, Raynard

University/institution: Regent University

Department: School of Divinity Continue reading

Points Bibliography: Getting People into Treatment

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief Motivational Intervention for Incarcerated Drinkers

Author: Owens, Mandy D.

Abstract: Almost half of convicted jail inmates have an alcohol use disorder and many are released to environments that put them in contact with network members and cues that make them more likely to relapse on alcohol or drugs. Given the high-risk period immediately following release, the purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of a brief motivational intervention administered just prior to release to increase substance use treatment entry and attendance, decrease alcohol and drug use, and change social networks for inmates with alcohol use disorders. Forty adult male inmates were consented into the study and randomized to a motivational intervention or the control condition (an educational intervention), and then they were contacted to do a one-month follow-up interview (62.5% completed this interview). Results indicated that conducting these interventions was feasible and considered extremely helpful by participants. Although there were no significant group differences, effect sizes suggest possible benefits from the motivational intervention in decreasing days of alcohol and drug use and increasing abstinence, and reducing the proportion of heavy drug users or users of any kind in the social network. Future studies should replicate these findings in larger sample sizes and over longer follow-up time periods, which may have implications for programming at jails for this population. Continue reading

Drugs on Display in Japan: The Daiichi Sankyō Pharmaceutical Museum

by Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, Contributing Editor

Daiichi Sankyō is a pharmaceutical corporation based in Japan, with more than fifty offices around the world. In 2012, the company opened the Kusuri Myūjiamu [Pharmaceutical Museum] to showcase its century-plus history, successes, and future ambitions in drug development.
east-asiaI visited the museum one rainy Friday morning in early June 2017. The museum is located in the Daiichi Sankyō building in downtown Tokyo, with the main exhibit hall on the second floor. Admission is free. Signs posted outside suggest allocating one hour for a visit. Guests are asked to leave bags in coin lockers outside the main hall, and photographs are not permitted.

Upon arrival, the visitor is handed a large plastic button. The button is carried from station to station and placed on portals to activate auditory content. At the entry terminal, the visitor inputs some demographic information and selects a language for presentation (options include English, Japanese, and Chinese). The button subsequently activates speech in the language of choice for each subsequent display. Inasmuch as I appreciated the unique, almost futuristic design of the terminals, when a large number of patrons entered at once, the general noise level of the room rose to a point where the vocalization became almost inaudible.

The text of the exhibit is pitched at about the level of a Japanese middle-school biology course (which perhaps explains why most of the visitors I saw were schoolgirls in uniform, diligently filling out worksheets). Daiichi Sankyō emphasizes the scientific nature of its production process by inundating the viewer with chemical formulas and structures, experimental setups, and clips of researchers and pharmacists at work. The somewhat dry presentation is enlivened at points with interactive opportunities such as multiple-choice quizzes. Continue reading

Points Bibliography: Smoking in the United States

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

Informing E-cigarette Policy: Population Effects and Tobacco Industry Incentives

Author: Cahn, Zachary

Abstract: This dissertation consists of a set of papers intended to inform practitioners and scholars of nicotine policy in general and e-cigarettes specifically. The first chapter frames the subsequent chapters and introduces some key concepts that are necessary to understand this framing. The second chapter synthesizes the research on past obstacles to cigarette innovation in order to 1) determine why cigarette innovation did not yield substantially reduced hazard for decades, and 2) gain insight into how tobacco companies are likely to behave today and in the future. Special attention will be paid to the emergence of e-cigarettes and why the industry did not enter this market sooner. The third chapter focuses on the potential for e-cigarettes to “renormalize” cigarette smoking. Looking at one specific pathway—social renormalization—this chapter seeks to estimate whether peer vaping affects the perception of peer smoking among youths. The fourth chapter examines predictors of initiation of e-cigarette use among consistent smokers and analyzes the impact of e-cigarette use on cessation among smokers in a national U.S. consumer panel. The fifth chapter puts the findings from the previous chapters into context and develops core lessons for scholars that seek to study e-cigarettes and policymakers that seek to regulate them.

Publication year: 2016


ISBN: 9781369330571

Advisor: Saltman, Richard B.

Committee members: Berg, Carla Michael; Haardoerfer, Regine Michael; Hockenberry, Jason Michael

University/institution: Emory University

Department: Health Services and Research Health Policy Continue reading

Running Amok on Marijuana: Re-hashing the grain of truth in one of the world’s most persistent myths about Cannabis

by Nick Johnson, author of Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West (Oregon State University Press, 2017)


There’s no denying that the growing nationwide acceptance of cannabis in the twenty-first century has illuminated the many benefits of this plant, long-sequestered in American society:

Hemp, the non-psychoactive variety, is a multi-faceted crop with a bevy of industrial and consumer applications.

The many inter-working compounds in marijuana are an effective medicine capable of alleviating—and possibly curing—some of our most agonizing ailments.

Widespread use of marijuana has proven to be a relatively safe activity that has never produced a lethal overdose or lived up to its opponents’ worst fears.

Cannabis advocates revel in these facts; they form the backbone of the argument for legalization. But every so often a report comes out that notches a chink in activists’ rhetorical armor. In particular, several recent incidents reflect a darker, if relatively uncommon, strain in cannabis’s long history amidst human societies: Continue reading

The Disconnects in Indian Drug Policy: Article 47, Drug Research, and Social Policy

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Contributing Editor Dr. Kawal Deep Kour. 

Policymakers in India have responded to proliferating reports of substance use disorders with great concern, opening the winter session of Parliament with a discussion of drug addiction and ways and means to reverse the trend. Even formerly radical ideas are on the table: it is likely that a Private Member’s Bill calling for the legalization of medicinal opium and cannabis will be introduced this session. This measure indicates policymakers both understand there is a problem and are willing to address it from new angles. Though the government of India and its people are currently debating the issue, drug policy reformers hope this bill will create pathways for a more progressive, less punitive set of laws. That this conversation is happening at all evinces a broader trend toward flexibility among governments across the globe, particularly regarding the therapeutic use of cannabis and the costs of the international “war on drugs.”


Prime Minister Jawaharal Nehru signing the Indian Constitution

The legal debate over legalization in India centers on Article 47 of its national constitution, ratified in 1949, which outlines one duty of the state: “to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health… and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.” While our knowledge of drugs and their injurious potential has increased a great deal due to social practices research, Indian drug policy discourse is dominated by medical and scientific rhetoric. Research from this perspective is often preoccupied with health problems associated with drug use. Focus on the discrete biological mechanisms or epidemiology of drug use is insufficient for understanding (or potentially influencing) behaviors related to intoxication and substance use disorders. Social scientists around the world believe there is an urgent need to incorporate more perspectives from anthropology, history, sociology, and cultural and gender studies, which remain secondary to laboratory sciences. (Regardless, most informed debate is limited to the professional academy. Public engagement by all of these disciplines should become the norm, not only to dispel myths about drugs and their use but also to perhaps help those struggling with related disorders.)

These competing frameworks result in confused approaches to drug policy. Article 47 is still invoked to justify and reinforce prohibition, but a careful reading suggests the foundation for a more progressive policy is already written in the directive. Recall that Article 47 requires the state to “raise the nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.” In this spirit, the National Drugs and Psychotropics Act of 1985, the foundation of Indian drug policy, was amended most recently in 2001 to allow more scientific drug research and encourage private industry to enter the international pharmaceutical opium market. One state, Uttarakhand, read even more into the legal change and recently became the first in India to legalize the production of industrial cannabis. These steps help pull us from the mess of complete prohibition, which continues to ensnare other Indian states and countries elsewhere.

Cannabis plants in Uttarakhand (courtesy, IndiaTimes)


Prohibition is a flawed approach that ignores lessons from history. In 1976, the National Committee on Drug Abuse, chaired by Dr. C. Goplan, concluded that the elimination of drugs was a utopian idea and instead advocated for their “control and minimization.” Among the committee’s most significant recommendations was establishing a National Advisory Board on Drug Control featuring representation from academia, government, NGOs, and other interest groups. It called for long-term research programmes on different aspects of the problem to formulate evidence-based policies. This proposal never came to fruition, and forty years later progress has been incremental, but it is gratifying that Indian researchers so long ago envisioned a foundation for connecting scholarship to policy that continues to resonate globally as a viable model. It is this ongoing disconnect between research, policy, and practice that ails present drug policy in India and elsewhere. Existing national medical discourse masks the complexity and dynamism of drug use, but even new work among social scientists must overcome significant disciplinary barriers, public preconceptions, and policy inertia in order to make a meaningful impact regarding drug use or its potential problems.


“Without Hemp Columbus Would Not Have Reached America”: Barcelona’s Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum

Editor’s Note: Today’s piece is by Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, Associate Professor of History at University of Colorado Boulder and author of the book, Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History.

Having visited museums and exhibitions on intoxicants (several of which I’ve reviewed for Points) in nearly ten different countries, a few consistent patterns have emerged. Perhaps most strikingly, content tends to focus overwhelmingly on production and regulation, while all but entirely excluding issues around consumption. In national institutions such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (Washington, D.C.), the Drug Elimination Museum (Yangon, Myanmar), and the Opium Museum (Chiang Rai, Thailand), this slant reinforces other forms of anti-drug propaganda in vilifying “evil” traffickers against a “hero” state. At private institutions, where curators may enjoy greater intellectual freedom, many are nonetheless discouraged by the lack of reliable information to show the public.

The Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum of Barcelona, by contrast, is almost entirely devoted to consumption of Spain’s most recently decriminalized substance. Together with its “older sister” institution in the Netherlands (a nation long known for its liberal drug policies), this museum encourages the tolerance and even celebration of marijuana by showcasing the many important functions the drug has played for users around the world and throughout time. Continue reading