This is Your Country on Drugs: the Secret History of Getting High in America

By Ryan Grim

Place: Publisher & Year: Hoboken: Wiley, 2009

Genres: Non-fiction, social sciences, history, popular culture

ISBN: 9780470167397

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 264 (including notes and index)

Setting: USA

Time period: 1800s – present

Plot summary: Grim tells the story of America’s relationship with various drugs throughout the country’s history up to present day.  He begins the book by asking the question – what happened to acid? – since neither he nor any of his friends can find it anymore.  He then goes on to explain why LSD could no longer be found.  From here, he moves backward in time, examining the rise and fall of various drugs throughout the nation’s history, beginning with alcohol and including opiates, cocaine, marijuana, speed, pharmaceuticals and many others.  Grim looks at the cyclical nature of drug use over time for various drugs and how this relates to social, political, and economic factors of the time period.  By the end of the book, Grim comes full circle in examining acid’s comeback.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Somewhat erratic pacing – the pace varies with each chapter; some moved more quickly than others.  Each chapter examines a different aspect of Americans’ relationship to various drugs over time.

Characterization: While various individuals are mentioned for their roles in making history, the key characters in this book are Americans in general and the American government.

Frame: “There may be no people on earth with a more twisted and complex relationship to drugs” (p. 3).  This statement sets the frame for the book – twisted and complex.

Story line: An informative and eye-opening book about historical and current drug use in America, including many aspects of The War on Drugs.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Drug addiction — United States.

Sociology — United States.

Similar authors: (From Amazon)

Drugs: America’s Holy War by Arthur Benavie

Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition by Jeffrey A. Miron

Ending the War on Drugs: A Solution for America by Dirk Chase Eldredge

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? by Steve Fox

Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure by Dan Baum

Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence by Mitch Earleywine

Why Marijuana Should Be Legal by Ed Rosenthal

Personal notes: I am not happy with the subject headings for this book, since the material has much more to do with recreational drug use in America and the (pointless and money sucking) War on Drugs rather than drug addiction (unless addition to a drug war can be considered drug addition).  All the libraries I checked seem to be using the exact same headings, though.  Even if the original cataloger for this book couldn’t take the time to read it, just looking at the flap and covers, one can tell that the focus is NOT on addiction.  Lame cataloging!

Other (themes, diversity):

“Elements of this book have appeared in Harper’s, Slate, Salon, Mother Jones, the American Prospect, In These Times, and Politico” (p. 246).

For more information, visit the website for the book.


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