Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pg. 99: Virginia Berridge's "Demons"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs by Virginia Berridge.

About the book, from the publisher:
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.
Learn more about Demons at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Demons.

--Marshal Zeringue