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Recent Reviews
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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 Amphetamine Debate: The Use of Adderall, Ritalin and Related Drugs for Behavior Modification, Neuroenhancement and Anti-Aging Purposes
by Elaine A. Moore
Publisher:
McFarland & Company, Inc. 
Year:
2011 
Reviewed by David Bey
3/12/2012

If the aim of Moore’s book is to “cover both sides of the debate over amphetamine prescription and use” then her work is, to put it mildly, an embarrassing failure. The book is unabashedly in favor of stimulant drug use, going so far as to dismiss the better part of those problems associated with said stimulants as being largely the result of insufficient legal access to speed, owing to pesky government restrictions. [...] If, however, the goal of The Amphetamine Debate is to provide aid, comfort, and what is essentially a resource guide for anyone wishing for greater legal access to stimulant medications––a resource guide camouflaged in a stupefyingly shallow way as a seriously researched impartial exploration of a difficult issue––than, for what’s it’s worth, I suppose the book is probably a success. However, woe betide anyone looking for a genuine engagement with the debate alluded to on the book’s cover. [ read more ]

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The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys
by James Fadiman, PhD
Publisher:
Park Street Press 
Year:
2011 
Reviewed by Craig K. Comstock
2/24/2012

Fadiman’s book tells several stories, all deeply engaging. The first is practical advice about how to set up and run an optimal session. (His own first “trip” was guided by Richard Alpert, who later became Ram Dass; and among the people Fadiman has guided is Stewart Brand, who started the Whole Earth Catalog.) While not advising anyone to take drugs, Fadiman has helped people who have decided to ingest these substances to have the best possible experience. [ read more ]

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Enter the Void
by Gaspar Noé (Director)
Publisher:
IFC Films 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by Jon Hanna
2/21/2012

If the folks from The Partnership at Drugfree.org need any fuel to feed the ideals of their non-profit organization’s media-driven attempt at persuading America’s youth to eschew drugs, they could sponsor showings of Enter the Void. Children might learn that creative inspiration produced via the confluence of psychedelics and Eastern spiritual philosophies leads to self-indulgent, tiresome filmmaking. THIS is what results from smoking DMT, kids!
read more ]

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O Uso Ritual das Plantas de Poder [The Ritual Use of Plants of Power]
by Beatriz Labate & Sandra Goulart (Eds.)
Publisher:
Editora Mercado de Letras 
Year:
2005 
Reviewed by Renato Sztutman
2/20/2012

If Western, Christian and modern society is marked by the strong stigma of drugs and their users, other experiences, in other times and cultures, may show a quite different scenario, for example, of the religious use and the positive associations of altered states of consciousness. This is the subject of the articles in The Ritual Use of Plants of Power. [ read more ]

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Álcool e drogas na história do Brasil [Alcohol and Drugs in the History of Brazil]
by Renato Pinto Venancio & Henrique Carneiro (Eds.)
Publisher:
Alameda Casa Editorial / Ed. PUC Minas 
Year:
2005 
Reviewed by Renato Sztutman
2/20/2012

The distinctions between drugs and food, vice and necessity, and medicine and poison may be found in history. The articles in Alcohol and Drugs in the History of Brazil show, for example, that modern mercantilism has favored the commerce of certain substances such as wine and tobacco, suppressing the use of others, which began to be associated with addiction and marginality and have been regarded as harmful to health. [ 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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On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine
by Nicolas Rasmussen
Publisher:
NY University Press 
Year:
2008 
Reviewed by David Bey
12/23/2011

The stories and relationships in which Rasmussen seems to be most invested, and which he teases out in the greatest detail, concern the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that speed itself seemed to direct the evolution of culture in the United States—the culture of the American medical community, if nothing else. For a well crafted history and critique of the ongoing evolution of that “speed” with which we are plunging forward, and the chemicals that fuel and are fueled by it, we have Rasmussen to thank for his educational, entertaining, and ultimately troubling book. [ read more ]

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Speed-Speed-Speedfreak: A Fast History of Amphetamine
by Mick Farren
Publisher:
Feral House 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by David Arnson
12/20/2011

With Speed-Speed-Speedfreak: A Fast History of Amphetamine (I’m not sure of the title’s significance; is that like ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’?), he delivers a terrific book on just about every aspect of the notorious substances, amphetamine and methamphetamine. He has some good sections on meth’s manufacture, its relationship to MDMA, and its function and dysfunction in the world of sex. Additionally, the book is full of personal anecdotes from Farren’s career as a British rocker playing in “punk-before-there-was-punk-rock” bands. [ read more ]

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Salvia divinorum: Doorway to Thought-Free Awareness
by J. D. Arthur
Publisher:
Park Street Press 
Year:
2010 
Reviewed by David Arnson
11/17/2011

Originally published in 2008 under the title Peopled Darkness: Perceptual Transformation through Salvia divinorum, this book is based upon a series of experiences the author had over several years. Arthur is able to bypass the bewildering sensory effects of his initial experiences with an articulate analysis and description of a true “relationship” that he develops with the substance, especially with that of a 5X concentrate. [ read more ]

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