Monday, October 8, 2012

Books Related to Opiates

This is the beginning of an annotated bibliography of books I have read relating to opiates in some way.  Some are offered online at the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. Bear with me as this list is incomplete and will be updated.

The Consumers Union Report - Licit and Illicit Drugs. by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine. 1972  Available Online

For anyone interested in a basic text on drugs the Consumers Union Report is a good place to start.  It covers all the most commonly used drugs including tobacco, alcohol and caffeine in addition to the illicit drugs.  It evens covers glue!  I thought the chapters on opiates were especially good.  This is one of the best introductory drug texts out there period.  Some data may be a little dated but don't let that discourage you from checking this book out.  Plus it's online for free.

Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers by Thomas Szasz

Want to know what underlies the motivations behind the War on (people who use certain) Drugs?  Prominent anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz's polemic against drug prohibition and pharmacratic control of drug supply is required reading for all people who use drugs.  I have literally read this book at least three times in its entirety and re-read sections to this day.  It's worth quoting the introduction at some length:

There is probably one thing, and one thing only, on which the leaders of all modern states agree; on which Catholics, Protestants, Jew, Mohammedans, and atheists agree; on which Democrats, Republicans, Socialist, Communists, Liberals, and Conservatives agree; on which medical and scientific authorities throughout the world agree; and on which the views, as expressed through opinion polls and voting records, of the large majority of individuals in all civilized countries agree. That thing is the "scientific fact" that certain substances which people like to ingest or inject are "dangerous" both to those who use them and to others; and that the use of such substances constitutes "drug abuse" or "drug addiction" —a disease whose control and eradication are the duty of the combined forces of the medical profession and the state. However, there is little agreement—from people to people, country to country, even decade to decade—on which substances are acceptable and their use therefore considered a popular pastime, and which substances are unacceptable and their use therefore considered "drug abuse" and "drug addiction."

My aim in this book is at once simple and sweeping. First, I wish to identify the actual occurrences that constitute our so-called drug problem. I shall show that these phenomena in fact consist of the passionate promotion and panicky prohibition of various substances; the habitual use and the dreaded avoidance of certain drugs; and, most generally, the regulation—by language, law, custom, religion, and every other conceivable means of social and symbolic control—of certain kinds of ceremonial and sumptuary behaviors.
Second, I wish to identify the conceptual realm and logical class into which these phenomena belong. I shall show that they belong in the realm of religion and politics; that "dangerous drugs," addicts, and pushers are the scapegoats of our modern, secular, therapeutically imbued societies; and that the ritual persecution of these pharmacological and human agents must be seen against the historical backdrop of the ritual persecution of other scapegoats, such as witches, Jews, and madmen.
And third, I wish to identify the moral and legal implications of the view that using and avoiding drugs are not matters of health and disease but matters of good and evil; that, in other words, drug abuse is not a regrettable medical disease but a repudiated religious observance. Accordingly, our options with respect to the "problem" of drugs are the same as our options with respect to the "problem" of religions: that is, we can practice various degrees of tolerance and intolerance toward those whose religions—whether theocratic or therapeutic—differ from our own.
For the past half-century the American people have engaged in one of the most ruthless wars—fought under the colors of drugs and doctors, diseases and treatments—that the world has ever seen. If a hundred years ago[2] the American government had tried to regulate what substances its citizens could or could not ingest, the effort would have been ridiculed as absurd and rejected as unconstitutional. If fifty years ago the American government had tried to regulate what crops farmers in foreign countries could or could not cultivate, the effort would have been criticized as meddling and rejected as colonialism. Yet now the American government is deeply committed to imposing precisely such regulations—on its own citizens by means of criminal and mental health laws, and on those of other countries by means of economic threats and incentives; and these regulations—called "drug controls" or "narcotic controls"—are hailed and supported by countless individuals and institutions, both at home and abroad.
We have thus managed to replace racial, religious, and military coercions and colonialisms, which now seem to us dishonorable, with medical and therapeutic coercions and colonialisms, which now seem to us honorable. Because these latter controls are ostensibly based on Science and aim to secure only Health, and because those who are so coerced and colonized often worship the idols of medical and therapeutic scientism as ardently as do the coercers and colonizers, the victims cannot even articulate their predicament and are therefore quire powerless to resist their victimizers. Perhaps such preying of people upon people—such symbolic cannibalism, providing meaning for one life by depriving another of meaning—is an inexorable part of the human condition and is therefore inevitable. But it is surely not inevitable for any one person to deceive himself or herself into believing that the ritual persecutions of scapegoats—in Crusades, Inquisitions, Final Solutions, or Wars on Drug Abuse—actually propitiate deities or prevent diseases.

Opium for the Masses: A Practical Guide to Growing Poppies and Making Opium by Jim Hogshire 1994

Hogshire's book is a good introduction to the opium poppy.  There are other books and resources with greater details on the opium poppy.  What Hogshire has done is comb through these resources and simplify them in a slender and easy to read overview of opium and the opium poppy.  Scientifically minded readers may be left wanting more but the layman will find the book well worth the money.  Hogshire has paid dearly for writing this.  Michael Pollan wrote an entire feature length article in Harpers detailing Hogshire's persecution at the hands of the prohibitionists.  

Messengers of Paradise, Opiates and the Brain: The Struggle Over Pain, Rage, Uncertainty and Addiction by Charles Levinthal 1988

Levinthal's book is a little dated but otherwise good overview on the history of opium, the discovery of endorphins and their role in brain function.  He also speculates that the evolutionary development of the endorphin system was central to mammalian evolution from reptilian predecessors. Endorphin Deficiency Syndrome briefly considered.

The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren 1949

Algren's fictional account of illicit card dealer and morphine addict Frankie "Machine" Majcinek living in Chicago after the second world war.  The novel follows Frankie and his sidekick Sparrow through daily struggles until he inadvertently kills his dealer in a fight and events spiral out of control ending in tragedy.  The novel was also adapted into a film starring Frank Sinatra in 1955.

Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey 1821 [Link]
The confessions we first published anonymously in 1821, then released as a book in 1822.  A revised and greatly expanded edition was released in 1856.  I linked to a free copy from Project Gutenberg.which seems to be the first edition. A sampling:

"Oh! just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for 'the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel,' bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure of blood...."

Michelle Alexander dropped a literary bombshell on the practice of mass incarceration in the United States. I read this book some time ago and it's not fresh but I do remember some shocking facts, did you know that more African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850?   The New Jim Crow is not related to opiates specifically, but is an indictment of our current opiophobic  culture within the context of the war on certain drug users.  The campaign against opium had racist origins.  The American government attacked Chinese immigrants by taking away something that  was a widely used and valued part of their culture, opium.  From these racist origins who could have predicted the far reaching consequences?  The creation of deviant drug subcultures, pain patients unable to get treatment (due to a campaign by the DEA against doctors who treat pain), the creation of massive drug production and distribution companies ("cartels") that operate outside of the law,  and finally the focus of Alexander's book.  The drug laws, which are fundamentally unjust, are being applied unevenly to systematically incarcerate and then permanently disenfranchised  an entire generation of mostly black men by labeling them felons.  You should read this book, I'm going to read it again soon.

The Heroin Solution by Arnold Trebach 1982 [Review Here]

Trebach turns his attention to heroin and comes to the "radical" conclusion that heroin addicts should be treated by doctors and not the criminal justice system.  It is reported that he has since seen the light and come out in favor of full legalization.  Much of the book compares the differences between the English system and the American system.  He also notes the perverse connection between opiate users and patients in chronic pain.  Our opiophobic culture and campaign against opiates has led to massive under-treatment of pain and the undeserved misery of both addicts and patients.  

The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend by Thom Metzger

Today I finished reading Metzger's account of the story of heroin, from wonder drug to demon drug.  Metzger borrows heavily from Thomas Szasz, even quoting him in several chapters.  The majority of the book is accurate, although he does repeat some popular myths about methadone (it was not named Dolophine for Adolf Hitler).  Personally I enjoyed the earlier chapters about the Bayer pharmaceutical company more than the later chapters, although I suspect this is because I am at heart a chemistry geek and already quite familiar with the themes of later chapters.  Metzger shows how the "dope fiend" caricature evolved from notions of racial purity and obsessions about cleanliness and purity.  I thought the last chapter, titled "the new orthodoxy," could have been longer coming in at only 15 pages in a 216 page book.  The book also contains many images of the portrayal of dope in newspapers and notes the similarities to the portrayal of Jews in Nazi Germany.  This is a short book that can easily be read in a day or two, but is worth checking out.

The Legislation of Morality by Troy Duster 1970 [Link]

Drug, Set and Setting. The Basis for Controlled Intoxicant Use, by Norman E. Zinberg M.D. [Link]

The American Disease. Origins of Narcotic Control by David F. Musto 1973 [Link]

Phantastica. Narcotic and Stimulating Drugs by Louis Lewin 1924.  [Link]
German Translation


  1. Andy,

    Just saw your comment on HH from Oct. 13th today. Nice list so far, but, unless I missed it, I don't think I saw *The New Jim Crow* on it. I'm sure I'll think of more in the near future, and I'll let you know when I do.

    Nice blog, by the way.

  2. Mack,

    Thanks for checking out my blog, and you're right I don't have "The New Jim Crow," so I put it up now. Let me know if you have any more to recommend and I'll add them. I have some books at home that I have to add, but right now I have too many books and not enough reviews. I also wanted to put up books available online so people can read them for free.

  3. Before I recommend any other books for this list, do you want books explicitly related to opioids and the drug war, or would books dealing with, say, the prison-industrial complex be okay? I can think of a few books that don't correlate directly to opioids or the drug war, but are certainly related and deal with issues that impact users, drugs, prohibition, et cetera. A few I can think of off the top of my head that would fall into this category are *You are Going to Prison* by Jim Hogshire, *Texas Tough* by Robert Perkinson, and, although I haven't read it yet, I'm sure that *FDA: Failure, Deception, Abuse* will relate in some ways.

    Also, what about fiction? Some books like *Junky* by Uncle Bill are essential reading for any biblio-opiophile. And have you considered creating a list of relevant documentaries?


    1. Do you know of any documentaries about opiates that are actually good? There are several on the drug war that aren't too bad. I think there's one called American Drug War: the Last White Hope that was actually decent. I haven't seen "The House I Line In" yet ut heard good things. most documentaries I've seen that are specifically about opiates are thinly veiled propaganda (HBO's "Methadonia" or "Intervention"). Then there are documentaries about the "disease" of addiction. If you know of some good documentaries let me know and I'll check them out.

    2. *American Drug War: The Last White Hope* is pretty good, although I can't think of any others at the moment. *American Drug War* is the only one relating to the drug war that I've seen so far that isn't propaganda. I'll let you know if I see any others worth posting.

  4. By the way, are you the same MorePheen from

  5. Mack,

    When I started this list I was planning on focusing on books specifically related to opiates but as the list started coming together I had to add books that were only peripherally to opiates but were essential to understanding the broader consequences of drug prohibition (eg New Jim Crow). I think as the list grows I will group the books into four general categories: books specifically about drugs(Licit and Illicit Drugs), books on drug policy(Ceremonial Chemistry), books on addiction and finally personal experiences and/or fiction (de Quincey). There is bound to be some overlap and some of the books listed at the bottom are actually on my to-read list. To my shame I have actually not gotten around to reading Junky yet. Is You Are Going To Prison nonfiction? A movie, You Are Going To Prison, was supposed based on the book.
    I always welcome suggestions and if you would like to make a contribution just email me the book name and a short blurb about it I will add it and credit you as the book reviewer. As the list grows and the blog comes together resembling a semi-respectable online drug resource I hope that I will be able to network with other sites like HH.
    Since I am not "out" as a drug user, beyond some friends and family, I decided to use a pseudonym. I sometimes read the opiophile forum and maybe seeing someone post as MorePheen stuck in my subconscious, but no I am not the same person and didn't intentionally plagiarize their name. At first I was going to use Opiophiliac since the blog is named opiophilia. But I liked the dual meaning behind MorePheen, as in "morphine (the drug)" and "(I want) more 'phine."
    BTW my email is

    1. *You are Going to Prison* is a nonfiction guide to incarceration by the exceptional iconoclast Jim Hogshire. I haven't read it, but Frank tells me it's good. Plus, I think it would be appropriate on a list geared for opiophiles.

      I understand your use of a pseudonym, especially if you're presently using illicit opioids. I'm not as worried about it because I've been on methadone for almost three years, and I don't plan on using unless opioids get legalized or I get my own prescription, which I'm not hoping for because I'd need to get injured for that.

      As for the handle "MorePheen," it's not identical to the guy I was thinking of on; his username is "More Feen." I've had an account at Opiophile since 2009, but I'm not currently active. It's been a while since I've even lurked there. I once was a pretty active poster.

      My e-mail is - I'll save yours in my contact list.

    2. I'm glad methadone is working for you, hopefully after three years you only have to go to the clinic once a month. I tried methadone twice but it didn't really do it for me. Well to be honest my life did stabilize somewhat but since I wasn't working on a sobriety-based "recovery program" (a philosophy I reject) I was eventually detoxed 2mg/day and discharged.

      I have many objections to methadone clinics philosophically regarding pharmacratic control ect but practically speaking one thing that keeps me from going back is fear of being cut off due to incarceration, changing political sentiment or loss of insurance coverage. Many states are threatening to limit methadone treatment to a given time frame. Methadone detox is very rough under the best of circumstances.

      I'll add your email too.

    3. Hi guys, if methadone didn't cut it for you then you may find the documentary Ibogaine: Rite of Passage interesting.


    4. I'll check out the video when I have some free time. I remain skeptical of the claims made by Ibogaine, it sounds like the claims made for LSD in treating alcoholics. Which is to say it may work for some but not everyone. Will watch the video and post about though.

    5. Hard to say based on so little research, but like many things that have the potential to fix profitable problems, where's the money in it for pharmaceuticals?

      I checked out the anti prohibition video "The Flower" then followed some other animation links before I spied an American TV news report on Ibogaine.

      I persisted for a while but it was a bit stuttered (probably my dodgy connection), however it seemed to corroborate much of what was in the other doco.


    6. I have done some background reading on Ibogaine, it is certainly worth investigating in a clinical trial. There are certainly people who claim it works wonders, but there are failures too. See:

      I have heard of fatalities occurring during an ibogaine detox, as far as entheogenic drugs go ibogaine sounds dangerous (I don't actually know the ld50, I've heard of fatalities happening but could be complications w/other meds or the detox process).

  6. whoa andy - i just got to your blog, this is totally awesome this is exactly what im talking about this is what we need. this is CJ, i had no idea, this is great - i cant wait to look thru everything. Matter of fact, im a little upset i havent found this sooner as ive obviously looked high and low for places like this!!!!

    1. Thanks CJ, I just started the blog a couple months ago but its coming along.