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Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered
by Lester Grinspoon & James B. Bakalar
Publisher:
The Lindesmith Center 
Year:
1997 
ISBN:
0964156857 
Reviewed by JF, 6/24/2001

After nearly 20 years, Grinspoon and Bakalar’s Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered remains a valuable reference work on the subject of entheogenic drugs. After too long a period out of print, it has been republished by the Lindesmith Center, the first in a series of reprints of classic works on drug policy for which I, for one, have high hopes. It is complemented, but not overshadowed, by more recent works by Ott and others. This is due largely to the careful and thorough job done by its authors on the original, 1979 edition. It is also due, unfortunately, to a repressive legal climate that has prevented a great deal of valuable research from being pursued during the intervening years: After so long, a work like this should be in need of revision. That it is not is truly a sad commentary on the current state of U.S. drug policy. In any case, the only significant omission is MDMA, which became of interest only after publication of the original edition.

Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered offers good coverage of all the main areas of interest in the field of entheogenic drugs, organized by subject matter rather than by drug. The sections on history especially benefit from unified coverage and an overall perspective that the Pharmacotheon, for example, cannot offer with its emphasis on families of compounds. The most valuable aspect of Grinspoon’s and Bakalar’s work, however, is the emphasis on the medical and psychiatric aspects of drug use, as befits their professional training. The authors offer a broad, well-selected survey of the entheogenic drug literature as it relates to such diverse topics as subjective effects, treatment of alcoholism, therapy for the dying, and mystical experiences, all approached from a critical but compassionate scientific perspective. And unlike some who would minimize or disregard potential adverse effects—something no less dangerous than those who would equate use with abuse—Grinspoon and Bakalar devote an entire, excellent chapter to the subject.

So far, this work has aged very well and is one I can highly recommend as a reference text. I can only hope that one day it will merit a thorough revision and a substantial increase in size. For now, it’s excellent psychiatric perspective is something no student of entheogenic drugs should ignore.

1 Comment »

  1. Probably the most unbiased book on psychedelic drugs I’ve ever seen. In fact,the book is so scientific and objective in its presentation, I honestly don’t know how Grinspoon and Bakalar really view these drugs (at least soley from this book). Perhaps some people may see this apparent “fence riding” as a bad thing,but I surely do not. This is not a Terrence McKenna (no disrespect) rambling about “time wave zero” – it’s a book written by legitimate scientific researchers who have actually worked with LSD and other psychedelic chemicals. And in the science game, total objectivity is the highest virtue (Those fucktards over at NIDA could learn a thing or two…or ten. YES,I’M TALKING TO YOU MR. GEORGE “CAN YOU SAY CONFLICT OF INTEREST” RICAURTE.)

    Like the other reviewer basically stated and I implied,Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered is not exactly a “pleasure read”. Most of the information isn’t extremely technical and shouldn’t be to hard to understand by someone with a basic education,but you will not hear the authors opinons on…well,just about anything. This simply isn’t that kind of book.

    So basically,those looking for a true scientific/objective study on the subject- you’ve found your book. Those looking for the spiritual meaning behind DMT “machine elves” or the meaning of “it all”- McKenna (again no disrespect) is on the shelf to your right,and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test usually be found in general non-fiction.

    ...should be required reading for any scientist (all four of them…I’ll buy ‘em all a personal copy) studying these chemicals…highly recommended reference

    Comment by monoamine — 11/19/2005 @ 5:13 pm

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