Wait a Minute– Meth is the New Meth!

In a startling reversal of last week’s panic over Oxycontin, the NY Times reported today that many states are facing “a surging methamphetamine problem,” and contemplating a drastic measure to stop it: making the pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines that are meth’s precursors available by prescription only.  Oregon and Mississippi have already done this, apparently to great effect. Unsurprisingly, however, the healthcare industry is not wild about such a move towards “over-regulation” and its attendant

Don't Deprive Them of the Sudafed They Deserve! (Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt, Flickr)

disenfranchisement of innocent Americans exercising their rights to  convenient cold remedies.  Healthcare industry lobbyists have successfully stalled legislation in a variety of states, over the objections of local law enforcement officials and community groups.  Points readers interested in the full story of meth –the drug’s changing role in rural communities, its place in the global drugs traffic, its significant human costs, and the role that lobbyists have played in keeping the meth supply chain strong and well-lubricated– would do well to check out Nick Reding’s compelling Methland: the Death and Life of an American Small Town. Reding’s nuanced reportage usefully fills the gap between the competing banalities of moral panic-mongers and their libertarian counterparts (of both left and right wing varieties), demonstrating conclusively that drug addiction has personal and social dimensions–and requires personal and social remedies.

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Recovery Lifestyle, 2.0

Today witnesses the launch of TheFix.com, a new “sober lifestyles” site offering “addiction and recovery, straight up” (their words, not mine).  The site is the brainchild of former magazine publisher and recovering alcohol abuser Maer Roshan, who discovered recently while getting sober that in recovery you find “people who are united by their values, united by their mission; there’s a common lingo, common literature [and] an actual community here.”  Surprise!– he also notes in an interview in today’s NY Times that “it is a community that advertisers will discover is large and eager to spend: ‘The demographics are really good.'”

A quick read of The Fix’s front page suggests how Roshan and his backers plan to appeal to that demographic.  Read More »

The Points Interview: Sarah Meacham

We’re delighted to present the sixth installment of the Points Interview, in which we make our first foray into the colonial period in North America.  Points talks with Prof. Sarah Hand Meacham, author of Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).  Prof. Meacham is currently an assistant professor in the Department of History at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Every Home a Distillery employs some skillful historical detective work to examine women’s role in the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages, and the manner in which men ultimately asserted their own primacy in that field of endeavor.

Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

In Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), I analyze the interesting question of how Cover of Every Home a Distillerytechnology and science came to be defined as men’s domain. No one had realized that from the late seventeenth century until the late eighteenth century it was typically women in the Chesapeake (that is the eastern areas of Virginia and Maryland) who made alcohol. Our contemporary assumptions and the historic documents themselves have hidden women’s labor. For instance, tavern licenses were almost always given to men. When I began wondering what kind of credentials a man gave the court in order to be considered for a license, I discovered that all the men who received licenses were married to women with tavern-keeping experience. These were women who had grown up helping their mothers run taverns. The men received the licenses because that was how the law worked, but it was the wives who were doing much of the day-to-day labor of managing the tavern. This makes sense when you consider that the men needed to be away managing farms or other businesses. But if you looked at the legal documents alone, and not the genealogies of the businesses, it would appear as if women had nothing to do with the taverns. That’s one example of how the historic documents can sometimes lead us astray.Read More »

Are Drug Traffickers Re-Colonizing Africa?

In 2009 the West African country of Guinea Bissau made a rare and brief appearance in the international media when, in the early hours of March 2nd, President Vieira was assassinated—apparently at the hands of units of the military.  Only hours before, the head of the army, Gen. Tagme Na Waie, had been killed; the assassination of the President was widely believed to have been an act of retaliation for the murder of a long-time rival.  Although the details of those hours remain murky, accounts of these events rapidly moved beyond descriptions of a power struggle to implicate the international drug trade.  Guinea Bissau was characterized as a “narco state”  in the making.  Suddenly, a continent generally seen as peripheral to the global drug economy—in terms of production, distribution and consumption—was moving to center stage.  A few weeks later Thomas Harrigan, Chief of Operations from the DEA, would testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that West Africa had become a major transshipment site for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe, and that heroin produced in Southwest Asia was also being channeled through West and East Africa to Europe.

The rise of West Africa (and the tendency for that to be generalized to Africa as a whole is an interesting aspect of the rhetorical history of drug imperialism) as an important site for the drugs traffic is of course not so new as the sensationalist reporting of events in Guinea Bissau might suggest.Read More »

The Points Interview: Barbara W. Grossman

The fifth installment of the Points Interview takes us on our first venture into biography as a dimension of drugs history.  Here, we talk with Barbara Wallace Grossman, author of A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009).  The work tells the story of the actress Clara Morris, whose morphine addiction is just one dimension of a remarkable, turbulent, and compelling life.

Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage (Southern IllinoisBook cover of Spectacle of Suffering University Press, 2009) is the story of a remarkable person and grew out of my ongoing interest in documenting the lives of women who shaped American theater history. Having written a book about Fanny Brice – someone who worked hard, played hard, and left very little primary source material behind – I wanted to find a woman in theater who had kept a diary. A former student doing research at Schlesinger Library in Cambridge (Massachusetts) told me about an actress whose 54-volume diary was housed there. After spending several weeks reading the first few volumes, I knew I had the subject of my next book – a project that took almost 14 years to complete! It chronicles the turbulent life and career of actress, author and feminist Clara Morris (1847-1925)

Largely forgotten today, Clara Morris (1847-1925) was one of the most renowned stars of her time, known as “America’s Greatest Actress,” the “Queen of the American Stage” and the “Empress of Emotional Acting.” Her mesmerizing performances riveted audiences as much as her tabloid-worthy antics intrigued them. Using Morris’s diary, memoirs, novels and short stories, as well as countless newspaper articles and secondary sources, I worked hard to present her story in an objective, yet compelling way.Read More »

Points on Policy: Medical Marijuana

A spate of recent articles in the national and alternative press have examined Oakland, California’s very interesting attempts to create a marijuana industrial complex that would throw off revenue to the cash starved city and state.  As a sidebar, some outlets have carried stories about what “McDonaldizing marijuana” would mean for small growers.  This weekend the NY Times decided to revert to showcasing the cozy human face

The Little Old Lady from Mendocino

of medical marijuana– little old ladies eating pot cookies. Readers of Points who identify as policy wonks can look forward, in the next few weeks, to posts on these issues (probably no cookie recipes, though) from friends of this blog who work in the drug law reform world.

Oxy is the New Meth

The New York Times gleefully reports today on the bust of  Staten Island Oxycodone ring whose leaders shilled the pills out of ice cream trucks parked in the borough’s suburban neighborhoods.   This is slightly different in substance but identical in tone to recent stories about “pill mills” in South Florida and Ohio that have identified Oxy as the new scourge of the working class.  Given the Times’s love of pornographic depictions of red state cretins being savaged by

Class Analysis of the Oxy Menace, Courtesy of WSJ

drugs (here’s a glossy magazine spread on Oxy; here’s a page one flame about Meth), what goes unmentioned is the possibility that an illicit Oxy traffic might have come into being in part because of shortcomings in the existing American healthcare system: physician insensitivity to pain management issues, for instance, and–oh yeah–lack of access.  In the next few weeks, Points will be publishing further discussion of the off-label use of prescription narcotics by Siobhan Reynolds, of the now-defunct Pain Relief Network, and by Helen Keane of Australia National University.  Until then, enjoy the latest moral panic, courtesy of the MSM.

Notes From the (Tobacco) Field

It was my great pleasure to have recently attended a public lecture at the University of Florida by Professor Jean Stubbs, who is currently in residence here at the Center for Latin American Studies as the Spring 2011 Bacardi Family Eminent Scholar.   Jean’s lecture, “The Havana Cigar Goes Global,” was an engaging tour of the research that’s been occupying her attention for some time.  You can find a recent scholarly expression of that work in: “El Habano and the World It Has Shaped: Cuba, Connecticut, and Indonesia,” Cuban Studies 41 (2010): 39-67.

Jean’s lecture was, to paraphrase her own comments, an entertaining romp around the world following the Havana cigar.  It would be well enough, I suppose, to simply show some of the engaging images that accompanied the lecture.  I thought, however, that your enterprising reporter might take a moment to highlight some of the most intriguing aspects of Jean’s work on the Havana cigar.  I choose three and–still better!–asked Jean to briefly respond to my comments.  My comments and questions follow, with responses interspersed.Read More »

The Points Interview: Carol Benedict

The fourth installment of the Points Interview series is ready, and I’m happy to say that it takes us into the fascinating world of tobacco history.  Carol Benedict is author of Golden-Silk Smoke: A History of Tobacco in China, 1550-2010, set to be released next month by the University of California Press (you can read an excerpt here).  She is currently on the faculty of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of History at Georgetown University.

Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

One third of the world’s smokers, over 320 million, now live in China. Active smokingGolden-Silk Smoke book cover
causes nearly one million deaths in China per year and another 100,000 Chinese die as a consequence of exposure to second-hand smoke. This book examines the deep historical roots of China’s contemporary “cigarette culture” and its burgeoning epidemic of smoking-related illness.  Beginning in the mid-sixteenth century when New World tobacco was first introduced into Chinese borderlands, the book describes the spread of commercialized tobacco cultivation throughout much of China in the seventeenth century, changing fashions of tobacco use in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the emergence of the Chinese cigarette industry in the twentieth century.  It explains why smoking, previously enjoyed by men and women alike, gradually became almost exclusively a male habit after 1900. The book also examines traditional Chinese medical ideas about tobacco, finding that Chinese physicians believed tobacco could be beneficial under certain circumstances even though they fully understood tobacco’s dangers. The perception that smoking could be good for health together with the important role it played in building and maintaining social relationships go a long way towards explaining its pervasiveness in Chinese society down to the present.Read More »