Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend

The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend by Thom Metzger

Today I finished reading Metzger's account of the story of heroin, from wonder drug to demon drug.  Metzger borrows heavily from Thomas Szasz, even quoting him in several chapters.  The majority of the book is accurate, although he does repeat some popular myths about methadone (it was not named Dolophine for Adolf Hitler).  Personally I enjoyed the earlier chapters about the Bayer pharmaceutical company more than the later chapters, although I suspect this is because I am at heart a chemistry geek and already quite familiar with the themes of later chapters.  Metzger shows how the "dope fiend" caricature evolved from notions of racial purity and obsessions about cleanliness and purity.  I thought the last chapter, titled "the new orthodoxy," could have been longer coming in at only 15 pages in a 216 page book.  The book also contains many images of the portrayal of dope in newspapers and notes the similarities to the portrayal of Jews in Nazi Germany.  This is a short book that can easily be read in a day or two, but is worth checking out.

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