Habitus and Drug Using Environments: Health, Place, and Lived-Experience

Where do we inject drugs? What do the actual places look like? Are they grimy? Or well-maintained? And, more importantly, what can we glean from drug-using environments around the UK? In Stephen Parkin’s new book, we get a sense of this – and so much more.

I reviewed his 2013 monograph for Sociology of Health and Illness earlier this year and found it fascinating. It can viewed here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/shil.2015.37.issue-1/issuetoc

I wrote that it was a “dense and penetrating book that not only helps to re-conceptualise the drug user as an actor, but also problematises the interaction of drugs, drug-using environments and legal frameworks.”

Honestly, I was particularly impressed with the fact that he really got his hands dirty. “He conducted,” I wrote, “over 70 interviews with drug users and close to 170 with front-line health workers in four separate locations in the south of England, including Barking and Dagenham, Plymouth and Southend-on-Sea. At the same time, Parkin fully immersed himself in the milieu that he describes, thereby amassing ethnographic observations, visual assessments of over 400 separate sites and 1000 photographs.”

Basically, Parkin created a wickedly massive dataset.

Looking ahead, I hope that scholars in Canada (and, to a lesser extent) the U.S. follow Parkin’s lead. Getting down in dirty and chronicling drug-using spaces adds a new dimension – a humanity – to the typical drug user.

And perhaps this, in turn, can assist the policy process.


It’s Time for Dr. Oz to Hit the Yellow Brick Road

Doctors should not be cheerleaders. They shouldn’t be flowery with their language about weight-loss treatments. And they sure as hell shouldn’t pitch miracle cures to the public.

This is why Dr. Mehmet Oz must be exposed. He should be removed from his position at Columbia University and shown the Yellow Brick Road.

He first came to attention on Oprah Winfrey’s show five years ago. Since then, he’s fronted a popular daytime television program, the Dr. Oz Show. Ratings are generally high. He’s well-trusted. Until recently, that is.

You can see the full article here: http://www.alternet.org/drugs/time-doctor-oz-hit-yellow-brick-road


Lucas Richert wins book prize

I’m delighted to announce that my book on the FDA has won an award. Go to http://artsandscience.usask.ca/history/news/news.php?newsid=4913 to see the announcement.

History Sessional Lecturer Lucas Richert Wins Book Prize

Dr. Lucas Richert is the winner of the 2015 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize for American Studies. It was awarded by the British Association for American Studies. The book Conservatism, Consumer Choice, and the Food and Drug Administration during the Reagan Era (Lexington Books, 2014) explores the FDA, drugs, and politics in the context of the watershed Reagan era, a period when the rhetoric of limited government, reduced regulation, and enhanced cooperation between businesses and U.S. regulatory agencies was on the ascent.

Lucas Richert is a Sessional Lecturer in the Department of History.

The Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies is an initiative designed to further interest in the study of the United States, to promote major new research projects and to facilitate the movement of people between Britain and America. It is based in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. The Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize is awarded annually for the best first book on any American Studies topic.

For the announcement and a list of other awards visit the site here: http://www.baas.ac.uk/project/baas-award-winners-2015/

LSD Has Wondrous Potential

The return of LSD? Call it a comeback? Maybe, maybe not.

Has LSD Matured?
The Return of Psychedelic R&D
By Lucas Richert and Erika Dyck

In February 2014, Scientific American surprised readers with an editorial that called for an end to the ban on psychedelic drug research and criticized drug regulators for limiting access to such psychedelic drugs as LSD (Lysergic acid-diethylamide), ecstasy (MDMA), and psilocybin.

A few months later, Science further described how scientists are rediscovering these drugs as legitimate treatments as well as tools of investigation. “More and more researchers are turning back to psychedelics” to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, various addictions, and other categories of mental illness wrote Kai Kupferschmidt.

Dr. Osmond, the man who coined "psychedelic"
Dr. Osmond, the man who coined “psychedelic”

Historians of medicine and drugs have long held a view that psychoactive substances conform to cyclical patterns involving intense periods of enthusiasm, therapeutic optimism, critical appraisals, and finally limited use. The duration of this cycle has varied, but this historical model suggests psychedelics are due for a comeback tour. It was just a matter of time…

See the full article at Alternet.org

Is it Time to Treat Heroin Addiction…with Heroin?

This article was posted on Alternet.org and ActiveHistory.ca http://activehistory.ca/2014/12/heroin-as-treatment-the-calculations-of-a-new-junk-equation/

Heroin as treatment? The calculations of a new ‘junk’ equation

By Lucas Richert

“I have learned the junk equation,” wrote William Burroughs in his semi-autobiographical 1953 book, Junkie. “Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means to increase enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.” According to Burroughs, the beatnik, spoken word performer, and author of such other novels as Naked Lunch and Queer, heroin was a way of life for habitual users and addicts. It was not simply a drug that enhanced the quality of one’s everyday experiences, nor was it a means to be a more productive individual. Rather, junk was an end in itself.

Burroughs, for his part, used methadone treatment to deal with his junk addiction. Heroin has had a long and troubled history. It started out like many other illegal drugs, including cocaine, LSD, and mescaline, and was initially touted as a wonder drug. Accepted as a legitimate product in the marketplace and tool in the doctor’s black bag, it was widely available in the U.S. and Canada during the 19th century.

Can Ketamine Fight Depression?

Drugs in Society. Rampant Depression. And Ketamine, also known as Special K. It’s not just a breakfast cereal. Go to Alternet.org to view the entire post

Special K and Depression
By Lucas Richert
Published December 18, 2014

Special K is not just a breakfast cereal and party drug.

Also known as ketamine, it has long been used as an anesthetic in short term diagnostic and surgical procedures. But Special K is now driving a significant debate in mental health circles because a growing number of psychiatrists in the United States and elsewhere are using it to combat depression.

According to Andrew Pollack in the New York Times, “it is either the most exciting new treatment in years” or it’s a “hallucinogenic drug that is wrongly being dispensed to desperate patients.”

There is still a decided lack of data necessary for any rational, evidence-based decision. At this stage, the jury isn’t even out. Yet, leading medical centers, including the National Institute of Health, Yale, and Oxford are proposing that low-dose ketamine for major depression has tremendous potential. It has become, according to Scientific American, a rising star in the world of depression research.