Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs

Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs

by Virginia Berridge
     
 

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Tabloid headlines attack the binge drinking of young women. Debates about the classification of cannabis continue, while major public health campaigns seek to reduce and ultimately eliminate smoking through health warnings and legislation. But the history of public health is not a simple one of changing attitudes resulting from increased medical knowledge, though that

Overview

Tabloid headlines attack the binge drinking of young women. Debates about the classification of cannabis continue, while major public health campaigns seek to reduce and ultimately eliminate smoking through health warnings and legislation. But the history of public health is not a simple one of changing attitudes resulting from increased medical knowledge, though that has played a key role, for instance since the identification of the link between smoking and lung cancer. As Virginia Berridge shows in this fascinating exploration, attitudes to public health, and efforts to change it, have historically been driven by social, cultural, political, and economic and industrial factors, as well as advances in science. They have resulted in different responses to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco at different times, in different parts of the world. Opium dens in London, temperance and prohibition movements, the appearance of new recreational drugs in the 20th century, the changing attitudes to smoking: by taking us through such examples, moulded by socio-economic and political forces, including the growing power of pharmaceutical companies, Berridge illuminates current debates. While our medical knowledge has advanced, other factors help shape our responses, as they have done in the past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
Historian of public health Berridge untangles complex perceptions of drugs, drink, and tobacco—products ubiquitous in the 1800s that are now mass-produced and regulated. Economics and technology played a major role in shaping their futures, she argues. For alcohol and cigarettes, technological changes would mean “a mass product for a mass market.” For drugs, “the product was for a more restricted and medicalized market.” Focusing primarily on the U.K., Berridge follows how drugs were “reconceptualized” after WWII, analyzing why some are legal now and others not. The fascinating evolution is also tracked through first-hand accounts that include a 19th-century pharmacist’s ordering techniques for snuff; the startling conclusion that opium dens were far less objectionable than public drunkenness; the scientific call for a public health response to drug users spreading the virus causing AIDS; and the sensationalist headlines chronicling the uptick in binge drinking by teenagers in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. For the future, Berridge thoughtfully urges a “look behind the immediate headline” to “analyze the longer-term processes at work” in our relationship to substances that have been with humans for centuries. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"[DEMONS] tells a complicated tale involving opium dens and absinthe, Prohibition and medical marijuana, and offers fascinating insights for a world where teenage binge drinking, legal marijuana, anti-smoking fervor and e-cigarettes are in the headlines." —Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780191668388
Publisher:
OUP Oxford
Publication date:
11/28/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Virginia Berridge is Professor of History and Director of the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. She has published widely on the history of illicit drugs, smoking, and alcohol and has worked in both historical and non-historical settings.

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