Drugs and Rec: A Dispatch from the Evergreen State (Guest Post)

Editor’s Note: We’re delighted to welcome Ingrid Walker, an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Washington-Tacoma, and a past guest contributor to Points. In today’s post, Walker makes several cultural observations about marijuana as it joins beer, coffee, and wine to become the newest psychoactive substance legally produced and consumed for fun in Washington.

Cultural observations about marijuana as it joins beer, coffee, and wine to become the newest psychoactive substance legally produced and consumed for fun in Washington. (Image: Huffington Post)

(Image: Huffington Post)

The much-anticipated first months of marijuana legalization in Washington have been consumed with building a regulatory system and marketplace from the ground up. Users ready to enjoy their substance of choice endured a 19-month waiting period between the passage of I-502 in November 2012 and the moment the first retail shops opened for business in July 2014. The Liquor Control Board quietly established the infrastructure for the regulation and licensed both growers and retail businesses. In the meantime, we have been left to anticipate how the new “recreational” market would affect life in Washington.


(via Weedmaps.com)

So far, the development of a recreational marijuana industry has come with a set of issues that typify the legacy of drug prohibition in the United States. The cultural reverberations of marijuana legalization reflect the attempt to normalize the use of a substance in a state and country that has no public language for that recreational practice. The law’s implementation has evoked questions about how a newly legal substance’s use-practice sits alongside the use of other psychoactive substances that we take for granted (alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco). In particular, there are many stereotypical expectations that suggest unfamiliarity with marijuana and its users.

That knowledge deficit is somewhat understandable; the paradigm shifts about marijuana use have required Americans in some states to radically reconceive the drug—first from a completely illegal substance to a medically approved substance, now to a fully legal one. In a country that has long-standing propaganda and stereotypes about marijuana use and users, perceptions are slow to change. I titled this post “Drugs and Rec” to echo Parks and Rec, the television comedy that touches on the often absurd aspects of public policy, local campaigns and government, as well as the concept of providing services for public “recreation.” While marijuana has always been “recreational,” the term distinguishes it from “medical marijuana”—the first toehold in the path to full legalization. Ultimately, should marijuana become legalized across the country, that descriptor will fall away as marijuana use becomes as normalized as alcohol use is.

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Guest Post: Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s Moral Vision of Hashish

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post is written by journalist and biographer Justin Martin, author of the new book Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians (Da Capo Press, 2014).  His post today is a reflection on psychedelic pioneer Fitz Hugh Ludlow. 

Fitz Hugh Ludlow was a psychedelic pioneer and author of the 1857 classic The Hasheesh Eater. I’ve just completed a book about his circle of Bohemian artists, which hung out at Pfaff’s saloon in Manhattan. As I researched, one of the things that struck me was how Ludlow made a distinction between drugs that promised enlightenment, and those that offered only empty sensation.

Portrait of Ludlow (Special collections, Schaffer Library, Union College)

Portrait of Ludlow (Special collections, Schaffer Library, Union College)

Nowadays, this is a common view. Drugs tend to be sorted into two distinct categories, at least among the lay public. Those such as LSD, mushrooms, and peyote are viewed as means to heightened perceptions, albeit at the risk of one’s mental stability. Those such as cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin are viewed as agents of sensation, for use by people seeking sexual thrills or mere numbness. It’s akin to the classic mind/body split explored for eons by philosophers.

But Ludlow published The Hasheesh Eater at a time when drugs occupied a very small role in popular culture. This was more than a century before the Grateful Dead peddled their vision of psychedelic bliss, say, or the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman furnished the umpteenth Hollywood cautionary tale about the dangers of heroin use. Circa the 1850s, Americans made recreational use of everything from alcohol to opium to chloroform. Crucially, however, moral distinctions about the properties of different drugs didn’t yet exist.

Ludlow – always supremely modern in outlook – made those distinctions just the same, promising that hashish offered “insight” rather than “indulgence.” And that seems to have been a key to his book’s success. It was one of the year’s best sellers, quickly going through four printings. It even sparked a short-lived vogue for hashish in the United States.

The Hashish Eater (1903 edition,  personal collection of author)

The Hashish Eater (1903 edition, personal collection of author)

A reporter for the New York World ingested the drug and then wrote about his experiences, concluding, “For me, henceforth, Time is but a word.” As a student at Brown University, John Hay – later Lincoln’s personal secretary and secretary of state under Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley – was also inspired to try the drug. “The Hasheesh Eater had recent appeared (1857),” a classmate reminisced, “and Johnny must needs experiment with hasheesh a little, and see if it was such a marvelous stimulant to the imagination as Fitzhugh Ludlow affirmed.” Hay himself would look back on Brown as a place “where I used to eat Hasheesh and dream dreams.”

After getting to know Ludlow, several members of the circle at Pfaff’s saloon felt compelled to celebrate hashish, at least in their literary efforts. Thomas Aldrich wrote a poem called “Hascheesh.”  Walt Whitman – the mainstay of this Bohemian group – also made allusions to the drug in some of his work from this time. Given Whitman’s moderate drinking habits (no one at Pfaff’s ever saw him so much as tipsy), he is unlikely to have indulged. More likely, the poet – always ultra-receptive to societal trends – simply wished to attend to a current fad.

Ludlow was ahead of his time, touting hashish for qualities that were morally acceptable, even desirable. If only the ill-fated Ludlow had held fast to his own instincts.

Drinking and Sexual Assault: The Third Rail of Health Education

(Editor: Today’s post is from Points contributing editor Michelle McClellan.)

It’s back-to-school time, and that means talking to college students about the dangers of binge drinking and the risks of sexual assault. And while parents, health care providers and social science researchers might think those topics go together, health education experts and university administrators call the combination a “third rail” of discourse, to be avoided at all costs. According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, many universities rely on Department of Justice funding for sexual-assault prevention. But that grant program considers alcohol and substance use “out of scope.” This split might seem like a straightforward bureaucratic division, perhaps to avoid duplication or redundancy. But historians know that such patterns do not come out of nowhere—this disjuncture has a history, and it is a complicated one for feminists.

39072-Alcohol, the no1 date drug-thumb-200x291-39071

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Craft Beer and Bovines: A Brief History of Distillery Dairies

The craft beer revolution is surely upon us. In 2013, some 2,822 breweries operated in the United States, marking the highest nationwide total since the 1880s. Nearly all of them – 2,768 to be precise – were considered craft breweries. Such numbers are the result of exceptional growth. The craft beer industry has grown nearly 11%  per year over the past decade, with an 18% jump last year alone. Cities of all sizes have embraced the trend. For example, the greater metropolitan area of Dayton, Ohio is now home to at least ten different craft breweries. These include the Fifth Street Brewpub, the nation’s second-ever cooperatively owned brewpub; Pints and Pinups, perhaps the only microbrewing strip-club in the country; and The Carillon Brewing Company, the first brewery to open in an American museum or historical park. Many craft breweries around the country have also dedicated themselves to their local communities and to environmentally sustainable brewing practices. One of the most common of these today – feeding spent grains to livestock – was also once deemed among the most virulent scourges in the country.

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Mom’s Getting Smashed: Alcoholism, Recovery and Motherhood as a Coming-of-Age Tale

Editor’s Note: This article is by contributing editor Michelle McClellan.

Smashed (2012) is the story of a young woman named Kate in present-day Los Angeles who confronts her excessive drinking through the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship. She gains sobriety, although her marriage disintegrates and she is fired from her job in the process. The overall narrative trajectory is familiar: it traces Kate’s life as she moves from her out-of-control drinking to the supportive intervention of a colleague, to the challenges of early sobriety, to a relapse when she loses her job, and then her one-year sober anniversary.  While previous addiction films have featured alcoholic women as protagonists at least as far back as The Smash-Up (1947), the central character in this genre is still more likely to be a man. What makes Smashed unique is that Kate’s identity as a young married woman allows pregnancy to be deployed as a plot device, revealing deeply-held ideas about drinking and maternity in the United States.


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A brief commentary on comments or, “we will figure this shit out”


“we will figure this shit out” is from a commenter in the youtube debate I discuss in this article. Feel free to comment on this post if you, too, would like to join the figuring out.

youtube comment: “Addiction is such a vague term”
reply: “Disease is also a vague term…we can spend hours picking apart words and meanings”

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an author who wants to remain in possession of her sanity must avoid reading the comments section of anything she writes. If the internet is a neighborhood into which one might enter to tell a truth about something personal, if I may borrow again from Jane Austen, an author must accept that her words are taken as the rightful property of some one or other of the many trolls lurking in the deep recesses of the intertubes. Here at Points, we screen comments in order to keep nasty, provocative, or derailing comments out of the mix (this post being the exception), but elsewhere, they flourish like kudzu.

Perhaps it was morbid fascination that drew me to explore some of these cesspools pockmarking our information superhighway, so I donned my emotional hazmat suit and clicked my way in to the comments sections.

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Call for Papers: The Alcohol and Drugs History Society Conference 2015

Call for Papers

Borders, Boundaries & Contexts:  Defining Spaces in the History of Alcohol & Drugs

Papers and panel proposals are invited for an international conference on the history of alcohol and drugs to be held at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA on June 18-21, 2015.  Panel proposals (3 x 20-minute papers) or individual papers (20 minutes) are invited.  We will also consider proposals for fringe sessions using non-conventional formats e.g. screenings, debates, demonstrations etc.

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Guest Post: Jonathon Erlen’s Dissertation Abstracts

Editor’s Note: Readers of Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society’s journal, are aware of Jonathon Erlen‘s ongoing bibliography of recent dissertations related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Until now, Dr. Erlen, the History of Medicine Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh, curated and published his dissertation lists in the print edition of the journal. In the spirit of rapid dissemination and open access, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society has moved the publication of Erlen’s bibliography to the blog. Below, we highlight a few of the most intriguing entries and provide links to pdfs of Erlen’s selections from the monthly ProQuest index. These entries were released by ProQuest in the summer and fall of 2013.

Links to complete bibliographies:

ATOD Bibliography Vol 75, issue 1

ATOD Bibliography Vol 75, issue 2

ATOD Bibliography, Vol 75, issue 3


An econometric analysis of cocaine use by methadone maintenance therapy patients

Author: Nichols, Ezekiel

Department: Economics (Business); Subject: Economics; Economic theory; Public health

Institution: The University of Alabama

Advisor: Cover, James; Committee: Lee, Junsoo, Underwood, Shane, Elder, Harold, Riches, Daniel

Abstract: This dissertation uses proprietary drug screening data, illicit drug prices from the DEA STRIDE database, and national and local macroeconomic variables to measure the price responsiveness and treatment effectiveness of methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) on patients in a voluntary, methadone-treatment program in a rural Alabama county. This is done using conventional, myopic, and rational models of demand. The demand for illicit drugs is found to be sensitive to national drug prices as estimated from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s System to Retrieve Drug Evidence (STRIDE), length of time in treatment, previous consumption, and the local unemployment rate. An important innovation in this paper is the use of temperature data from coca-plant-growing regions as an instrument for the cocaine prices taken from the DEA STRIDE database. Use of this instrument yields estimation results more in line with the predictions one obtains from economic theory. The estimation results imply that methadone maintenance therapy is a substitute for all illicit drugs under analysis. The implied price elasticity of cocaine use by MMT patients ranges from -0.0003 to -0.01284 and the unemployment elasticity of cocaine use is -0.00385.

The Sober Self: Discourse and identity of recovering alcoholics in the Western Highlands of Guatemala

Author: Pezzia, Carla

Department: Anthropology; Subject: Cultural anthropology; Mental health; Public health

Institution: The University of Texas at San Antonio

Advisor: Fleuriet, K. Jill; Committee: Cepek, Michael, Halvaksz, Jamon, Lanehart, Sonja, Wallace, James M.

Abstract: In this dissertation, I focus on how political, economic, and cultural histories influence experiences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism recovery amongst indigenous community members in Panajachel, Guatemala. My research goals were twofold: 1) to document and understand the political, economic, and sociocultural processes that impact the prevalence of alcoholism, treatment options and experiences, and sobriety attempts among Panajachelense problem drinkers and 2) to use this information to contribute to ongoing efforts to expand and improve mental health outreach to problem drinkers in the area. I combine ethnographic and epidemiological methodologies within a critically engaged phenomenological framework to document the enduring influence of discriminatory discourses on the lived experience of alcohol addiction and recovery in a historically oppressed population, namely the Kaqchikel Maya. Utilizing ethnographic, epidemiological, and critical discourse analysis from data derived from fifteen months of fieldwork, I argue that national historical discourses that equated indigeneity with alcoholism continue to impact perceptions of alcoholic individuals at the local level. While both men and women are affected by alcoholism, national and local discourses typically focus on male drinking. Moreover, prevalence data I collected highlight how alcoholism disproportionately affects men in Panajachel. As such, the primary focus of this dissertation is centered on male alcoholic individuals in the process of recovery. I demonstrate how the phenomenological shift from an alcoholic identity to a sober self is influenced and constructed by historical political and contemporary social and economic processes amongst the Kaqchikel Maya in Panajachel. The difficult negotiation of sobriety arises from a state of disequilibrium between the external identity of “alcoholic” and the internal experience of the “sober self.” The Sober Self is defined by a phenomenological shift in the natural attitude of the individual that radiates to those he is connected to within his lifeworld. Yet this transformation into the Sober Self is riddled with political, economic, and social barriers that define the experience of alcoholism and impede the process of recovery. Discrimination toward alcoholic individuals poses significant barriers to recovery. Additionally, available treatment models in the region do not meet the needs of the typical alcoholic Panajachelense. The notion of the Sober Self expands upon emerging anthropological literature on self-transformation based in non-Americanized therapeutic processes for sobriety. This dissertation provides one of the first detailed portraits of the experience of alcoholism and recovery in indigenous communities within the Highlands of Guatemala. It builds upon previous anthropological work on alcoholism that limited discussion to the role of the church and Alcoholics Anonymous as primary mechanisms to achieve sobriety in the region. The work presented in this dissertation is meant to highlight the need for more comprehensive treatment programs in order to address the alcohol-related health, social, and economic issues found throughout the Western Highlands of Guatemala.

“Small village/large hell”: Cocaine & incarceration in Lima, Peru

Author: Campos, Stephanie

Department: Anthropology; Subject: Cultural anthropology; Latin American history

Institution: City University of New York

Advisor: Mullings, Leith; Committee: Susser, Ida, Gilmore, Ruth, Diaz-Cotto, Juanita

Abstract: The Establecimiento Penitenciario de Mujueres de Chorrillos (commonly referred to by its previous name, Santa Monica) in Lima, Peru was built in 1952 as a reformatory to hold 300 women but by June 2012 it held over 3,500, many of them serving sentences for drug trafficking. This is the largest female prison in this Andean nation. An intersectional analysis of prisoners’ narratives collected during fieldwork conducted from 2008 to 2009 demonstrates two inter-related processes. First, inequality was produced and reproduced inside this prison through the interconnections of race, gender, class and citizenship. Prisoners’ daily lives and access to resources were constrained by the same inequalities that led to their incarceration. Multiple divisions among women mirrored national and globalized structural inequalities and citizenship in particular emerged as a dividing force. Santa Monica’s stratification system was continuously reproduced as prisoners competed for life dependent resources. Secondly, I show the ways in which women’s labor was the linchpin between the transnational cocaine commodity chain and the prison. Santa Monica transformed into a place to “dispose of” low-level workers of the transnational cocaine commodity chain. Because the majority of these workers were women, their labor became the bond between illegal cocaine and the prison. Those who worked as drug couriers and minor retailers were laboring at the riskiest and most visible jobs to police surveillance. They were arrested when they were no longer needed or once they become a threat to the day-to-day operation of trafficking drugs while the (mostly male) middle managers above them remained in the background. Women’s labor therefore created a symbiotic relationship between the prison and this chain where each side helped the other grow and expand. Once incarcerated, these women faced a hierarchy that shaped options for survival as they served their sentences.

From science to sport: A cross disciplinary examination of the justification for doping bans

Author: Gleaves, John

Department: Kinesiology; Subject: Health and environmental sciences, Disciplinary examination, Justification, Doping, Performance enhancement

Institution: The Pennsylvania State University

Advisor: Kretchmar, R. Scott

Abstract: In this dissertation, I will use a cross-disciplinary approach to evaluate the ethics of doping and performance enhancement in sport. I believe such an approach will help remove many myths and assumptions about the ethics of performance-enhancing substances (PESs) that have long stalled the debate. These myths emerged due largely to scholars misunderstanding or remaining unaware of research that existed beyond their individual “silos” of expertise. Subsequently, one central question regarding the ethics of PESs remains unsatisfactorily answered: are sporting organizations justified to prohibit athletes from using PESs? This question will be at the center of my dissertation. Yet I will not offer any final conclusions about the permissibility of drugs in sport, either. Indeed, I do not believe there are any. What I will claim, instead, is that sporting communities have no necessary grounds for rejecting PESs. Yet contingent reasons may exist justifying their decision to prohibit or regulate athletes’ PES use. In order to provide appropriate context for my later claims, my first two chapters will examine the historical development of the doping attitudes from their nascent stages to the death of Knud Enemark Jensen at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. These chapters provide the necessary context for the modern PES debate by showing how significant cultural movements such as the fascination with doping horses for gambling, muscular Christianity, temperance movements, amateurism, and notions of public health helped shape today’s anti-doping attitudes. Following, my third chapter will turn to modern PESs and the science behind them. This chapter will help establish certain facts about performance enhancement such as performance gains, mechanisms of action and health risks which are important in ethical decision making. These scientifically grounded conclusions will help dismiss many myths as well as shape subsequent evaluations of the arguments for and against prohibiting PESs. This evaluation will come in my fourth chapter, where I will thematically and critically review past literature discussing the ethics of banning PESs in sports. This review will show that little consensus exists regarding the justification for prohibiting PESs and new efforts towards understanding the ethics of PESs may be justified. In my final two chapters, I will use the cross-disciplinary evidence developed in the first half of my dissertation to establish new ways of viewing the PES debate. The first step, which I will address in chapter five, involves viewing the debate as two separate questions: what are the acceptable means for “performance enhancement” and why should sports ban “doping.” In my sixth chapter, I use the cross-disciplinary information to inform a more rational evaluation of PESs, arguing that performance enhancing substances may either improve or harm wellestablished sporting tests. This, I will argue, renders any ipso facto rejection of enhancement unwarranted if not also irrational. I end with an epilogue that cautions against hastily altering the pharmacological landscape as certain issues still remain at work. Despite such issues, I acknowledge that specific PESs may potentially improve certain sports by opening new avenues for enjoyment. Thus I do not conclude that all PESs are necessarily wrong, but that sporting organizations can justifiably choose to ban or regulate athletes’ use of such technologies principally for reasons not typically advanced in the current PES literature.





The Points Interview: Hadar Aviram

Editor’s Note: Today’s interview features Hadar Aviram, a professor of law and the Harry and Lillian Hastings Research Chair at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law. Her new book, Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment (UC Press, 2015) is slated for release in January 2015 and available for pre-order from UC Press and Amazon. Below, Aviram gives Points readers a sneak peek at her argument:

screenshot_1164Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

When there’s an economic downturn in a country–does it punish more harshly or more leniently? In 2009, for the first time in almost 40 years, the number of inmates in the United States has declined. The federal government is rethinking its commitment to the drug war. States are abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, and rethinking their sentencing and incarceration practices. My book examines the ways in which the financial crisis has created an opportunity to reform our broken, unsustainable incarceration policies, and gives the readers a tour of the good, bad and ugly consequences of this transformation–including geriatric paroles, rolling incarceration costs onto the inmates themselves, and encouraging prison space bargaining between states, private prison companies, and local facilities. The book also tries to predict the future and sustainability of this new trend.

What do you think a bunch of alcohol and drug historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

Anyone who has been following the financial expenditures on the drug war might find it interesting to ask whether, now, this trend is reversed, and to examine the extent to which financial reasoning has played a role in the “drug truce” we are experiencing on the federal, state, and local level. I expect alcohol and drug scholars will be interested in the analysis of these campaigns, and particularly in their bipartisan appeals.

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Recent News Roundup: The Sobriety Coach Edition

Twelve-step sponsorship is so twentieth century—or so The New York Times would have us believe. In an article published last month in the newspaper’s Fashion and Style section, author Marisa Fox made the case that “recovery coaches,” “once consigned to Hollywood entourages to keep celebrities on the straight and narrow,” are currently trending among upper-class women “from the Upper East Side to the beachfront homes of Boca Raton.”

Last weekend, NPR’s All Things Considered followed the trend, offering a more inclusive description of recovery coaches’ clientele (the stock image that accompanied the report was still a view from the beach).


Diane Diederich/iStockphoto featured on NPR.com

The historical angle adopted by both news outlets was obvious. The old-fashioned practice of sponsorship—defined by Alcoholics Anonymous as the process by which a person “who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety”— presents shortcomings in today’s treatment marketplace. The women featured in the Times have the ability to buy their way out of the social awkwardness and fear of exposure that twelve-step meeting attendance invites. The NPR piece notes that people in early recovery don’t always gravitate toward the most adept supporters— coaches, who are trained to provide practical as well as spiritual guidance, can help solve this long-standing problem.

Clipping from Hazelden's MORE program pamphlet. The program offers coaching for clients in early recovery.

Clipping from Hazelden’s MORE program pamphlet. The program offers coaching for clients in early recovery.

As historian and clinician Bill White explained, coaches are not sponsors (they don’t do voluntary twelve-step work on “paid time”) and they’re not quite counselors (they don’t diagnose or probe underlying psychological issues). They occupy a new niche in the service economy that employs more than 75 percent of today’s American workers. They are “the new Pilates instructors,” one coach told the Times. They are compensated to be both “cheerleaders” and “beacons of hope,” another told NPR.

Like NPR reporter Martha Bebinger, I think coaches can produce tremendous benefits, both for people in recovery and for the treatment system as a whole. But the proper role of recovery coaches in today’s health service sector also deserves a systemic critique—and not the trolling, “New York Times Style Suction” sort.

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