New book analyzes Americans’ relationship with drugs

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A new book, “Quick Fixes: Drugs in America from Prohibition to the 21st Century Binge” sees the use of psychoactive substances as a defining characteristic of U.S. history over the past 100 years.

To discuss more about his new book, we welcomed author Benjamin Fong. Fong is also an Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett the Honors College and Associate Director of the Center for Work and Democracy at ASU.

Fong found Americans have been using more drugs than ever. From the opioid crisis to recreational marijuana, the trend just keeps rising.

In his book, Fong analyzes Americans’ relationship with drugs and explains when society changes, so do the drugs Americans choose.

“I wanted to problematize the distinction, the often rigid distinction, between licit and illicit drugs in the book. The hope is that we can see this broad variety of pharmacological substances as doing very similar things even though we often times have different associations with them,” Fong said.

The book begins in the late 19th century. At the time, medically pure cocaine, heroin, and chloral hydrate were available for over-the-counter purchase at a pretty low price.

“It’s also when the U.S. becomes pretty intimately involved in international drug regulations as well. So, that basic love/hate affair with drugs that’s sort of defines American history,” Fong said.

Fong continues to analyze American’s relationship with drugs through the book, weaving in and out the temperance movement and how it led to the prohibition.

In the late 19th century, Americans not only drank recreationally; but also had an escapist mentality that was fueled by stress and isolation.

“In the early 19th century Americans drank roughly four times the amount of alcohol we drink per capita today. But it wasn’t seen as that big of a problem because it was built into everyday routine,” Fong said.

What is the future of drugs in American society? decriminalization.

“The existing decriminalization and legalization will continue apace, the psychedelic’s phase is probably the most interesting right now. I think we’re most likely to see FDA approval for MDMA,” Fong said.

Benjamin Fong, author, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, the Honors College and Associate Director of Center for Work and Democracy at ASU

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