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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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Binge drinking, particularly in young women, has become big news. Debates about the regulation and classification of cannabis are frequently voiced. Cigarette smoking is banned in public places, and emotive public health campaigns seek to reduce its use still further. Yet there are many sides to each of these arguments, and if we look back over the last 150 years,

Overview

Binge drinking, particularly in young women, has become big news. Debates about the regulation and classification of cannabis are frequently voiced. Cigarette smoking is banned in public places, and emotive public health campaigns seek to reduce its use still further. Yet there are many sides to each of these arguments, and if we look back over the last 150 years, we see massive variety in the ways societies and states have related to drugs, drink, and tobacco.

Virginia Berridge offers a much-needed long view, which helps illuminate our current concerns, and shows how three separate stories overlap and inter-connect. She takes us to the socially-acceptable opium dens of Dickens's London; to the absinthe craze of fin-de-siecle Paris. She asks whether prohibition in America proved to be helpful or harmful. She looks at how tobacco was promoted as a medicinal benefit. She considers the medical use of cannabis, LSD, and other drugs. And through all this, she traces the changes in scientific and medical knowledge.

This is a complex story of whether, and how, the state should intervene. How do we balance the interests of personal freedom, public well-being, healthcare, and the economy? Is substance abuse a social issue, or a medical one? As governments, health services, and the World Health Organisation grapple with these issues, the wisdom and experience of history can help map the way forward.

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:
9780199604982
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/28/2014
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Berridge, Professor of History and Director, Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

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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