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Reviews by Jonathan Taylor
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You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos
by Robert R. Arthur
Publisher:
Feral House 
Year:
2013 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
12/21/2015

Only through explicating every taboo we hold can we arrive at social mores, and ultimately legal structures, that honor the diversity of human desires and experiences and stop penalizing people for behavior that does no harm to anyone else. In essence, our refusal to acknowledge taboos and the weak basis on which they rest prevents meaningful social, cultural, and political change. [ read more ]

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Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
by Sam Quinones
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Press 
Year:
2015 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
11/18/2015

In Dreamland, the culprits are pharmaceutical corporations, doctors, and decentralized Mexican drug retailers. The story really is one of capitalism run amok. While the book tells a compelling story of how profits were pursued, it doesn’t tell us exactly why demand skyrocketed, though it makes a few suggestions. [ read more ]

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High Price
by Carl Hart
Publisher:
Harper 
Year:
2013 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
8/15/2013

High Price is an autobiography of research scientist and drug expert Carl Hart, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The problems Hart describes in his upbringing and environment spring mainly from racism and poverty, often erroneously attributed to drugs. A much larger role then the effects of any drugs were the effect of the criminal justice system… [ read more ]

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Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational, and Scientific
by Martin A. Lee
Publisher:
Scribner 
Year:
2012 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
7/31/2013

Smoke Signals is a brilliant chronicle of the insanity of US drug policy, later foisted on the rest of the world, through the example of the healing green bud. A cover blurb from Douglas Brinkely suggests, “Every American should read this landmark book!”, and he is right. [ read more ]

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The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth
by Irving Kirsch
Publisher:
Basic Books 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
5/21/2013

In this concise and persuasive book, Kirsch debunks what he calls the myth of antidepressants and the brain chemistry imbalance theory of depression. Kirsch. is [...] an expert on placebo effects. Kirsch and colleagues found that antidepressants worked only very slightly better for treating depression than placebos did. [ read more ]

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American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan
by Peter Dale Scott
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
4/25/2013

There are certain books that, once read, alter one’s mind permanently. This is such a book. Naïve readers and patriots beware: You will never think about the world in the same way after you have read just the first two chapters of American War Machine. The book’s major thesis, simply put, is that: “US backdoor covert foreign policy has been the largest single cause of the illicit drugs flooding the world today.” [ read more ]

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
Publisher:
The New Press 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
5/30/2012

...a major work that definitively documents the racism inherent in the domestic application of the United States’ war on drugs. The historical comparison to the Jim Crow era of entrenched legal discrimination and the contemporary evidence of structural racism in all things police and prison-related are incontrovertible… [ read more ]

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To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War
by John Gibler
Publisher:
City Lights Publishers 
Year:
2011 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
4/17/2012

Americans seem to pay little attention to the ongoing “drug war” in Mexico in which some 65,000+ people have died. The prevailing assumption is that this is either a turf war between rival cartels, or a war between the forces of the state (primarily the Mexican drug police and the military) and the traffickers. John Gibler’s To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War offers a competing explanation. [ read more ]

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The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction
by Dirk Hanson
Publisher:
Booksurge 
Year:
2008 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
1/19/2012

Hanson paints a complex picture that includes findings from hundreds if not thousands of research studies. The heart of the book is a dissection of the effects of various commonly used psychoactive substances on the brain, and a discussion of possible treatment options, including newer pharmaceuticals compounds, that attempt to stem cravings and thus prevent the ubiquitous condition known as relapse. Hanson devotes three long chapters to discussing pharmacological agents used to treat substance abuse, addiction, and craving. Many new drugs either just coming on the market or not yet on the market are discussed. This detailed generalist account is probably the most comprehensive single work on the topic for the lay reader. [ read more ]

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High Society: The Central Role of Mind-Altering Drugs in History, Science, and Culture
by Mike Jay
Publisher:
Park Street Press 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor
7/20/2011

Only 150 pages or so long, with color or black and white glossy illustrations on almost every page, High Society is presented as a visual history of the use of psychoactive substances, but Jay’s narrative transcends this. Such are Jay’s talents in telling this story and in picking what fascinating tidbits to include and what not to, this book would be almost as good without any illustrations whatsoever. [ read more ]

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