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Full Review
Pagliaros' Comprehensive Guide to Drugs and Substances of Abuse
by Louis & Ann Pagliaro
American Pharmacists Assoc. 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Earth Erowid, 5/26/2004

A reference manual designed with the physician in mind. Pagliaros’ Comprehensive Guide to Drugs and Substances of Abuse is organized into two major parts, with the first being introductions to depressants, stimulants, and psychedelics titled “Psychodepressants”, “Psychostimulants”, and “Psychodelics” [sic]. The authors explain their decision to change the spelling of the word ‘psychedelic’ as an attempt to make the three words parallel and they use this spelling throughout the book. It seems unfortunate that they decided to change the spelling of a widely used word, despite the word “psychedelic” beings strongly out of favor in the academic and medical fields because of its cultural and commercial baggage. I’m not sure how successful their attempt to salvage the word will be, but “psychodelic” is probably preferrable to “hallucinogen”.

The second half of the book is organized into an alphabetical reference manual with 1 to 4 pages per substance. It covers a diverse collection of 101 substances including some that have become more widely known in the last decade, such as Salvia divinorum, BZP, GHB, AMT, and 2C-B. Each substance ‘monograph’ includes an overview, information about dosages forms and routes of administration, mechanism of action, pharmacodynamics/pharmacokinetics, reasons for use, toxicity, abuse potential, withdrawal symptoms, overdosage, references/bibliography. Not all substances have all sub-sections and the amount of detail varies dramatically from one entry to another, but there is adequate information to get a sense of each substance.

The organization overall is good, but the omission of a list of substances in the table of contents was mildly bothersome. The publisher should included one in any future reprint. The style is concise and readable. The authors clearly have facility with the subject matter. The text is useable by anyone with a technical degree and easy work for MD/PhDs. The tone of the book is medical and generally free from prohibitionist moralizing, focusing primarily on negative health effects.

There are some surprises in the text, like the inclusion of some of Leary’s “Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness”, quotes from the Rg Veda, and Stafford’s Psychedelics Encyclopedia. The inclusion of these among the many medical and research references suggests the authors are well read in the field.

A positive feature of the book is the inclusion of references and bibliographic entries at the end of each chapter and substance monograph. Unfortunately there are many references obviously omitted as the authors fail to cite online resources that were clearly used in writing the book. Also some of the obscure substances have only a couple of references that are clearly inadequate as citations for the presented facts.

Generally, the book is quite good and would be a particularly useful resource for medical professionals. It can act both as a solid introduction to common psychoactives and a medical encyclopedia. If the citations included references to where clearly appropriate, it would be an B+, as it stands, its a B.

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